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Placements and portfolios: enhancing performance through experience and reflection

02 May 2021
7 min read
Volume 32 · Issue 5


The theory–practice gap continues to be a problem in healthcare. Catherine Best and Lucy Tymon explore how practice placements and portfolios can help with this

The theory–practice gap remains prevalent in the healthcare profession; ultimately having the potential to impact negatively on patient care. The use of practice placements and portfolios can help to reduce this gap by supporting students to become self-regulating, self-directed learners able to take responsibility for achieving their defined learning outcomes, while reflecting critically on their experience and professional practice. A fundamental requirement, however, is the undivided commitment of the current nursing workforce to scaffold learning opportunities in high quality practice placements and to catalyse excellent support networks that promote effective collaboration. Such networks enable students to build confidence in their abilities to overcome the challenges they will undoubtedly face, during the often-difficult transition from student to registered nurse.

Fundamental to the delivery of high-quality pre-registration (student) nurse training, is the importance of approved education institutions (AEIs), together with practice learning partners, working collaboratively to ensure the provision of effective clinical placements (Nursing and Midwifery Council [NMC], 2018a).

Central to this, is the ability of student nurses to develop the skills necessary to critically reflect on their clinical experiences and apply this learning to professional practice (NMC, 2018b).

In nursing, however, the omnipresent theory–practice gap continues to exist – a constant nursing problem experienced by all levels of nurses (Greenway et al, 2019), which remains predominantly visible in the clinical environment (Brown, 2019). And, with this discourse having raged on from as early as the 1980s, as evidenced by the work of Rafferty (1992), it seems likely that this debate will endure for some time.

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