BACKGROUND: The clinical learning environment is a complex social entity that influences student learning outcomes in the clinical setting. Students can experience the clinical learning environment as being both facilitative and obstructive to their learning. The clinical environment may be a source of stress, creating feelings of fear and anxiety which in turn affect the students' responses to learning. Equally, the environment can enhance learning if experienced positively.
OBJECTIVES: This study described pupil enrolled nurses' experiences of facilitative and obstructive factors in military and public health clinical learning settings.
METHOD: Using a qualitative, contextual, exploratory descriptive design, three focus group interviews were conducted until data saturation was reached amongst pupil enrolled nurses in a military School of Nursing.
RESULTS: Data analysed provided evidence that acceptance by clinical staff and affordance of self-directed learning facilitated learning. Students felt safe to practise when they were supported by the clinical staff. They felt a sense of belonging when the staff showed an interest in and welcomed them. Learning was obstructed when students were met with condescending comments. Wearing of a military uniform in the public hospital and horizontal violence obstructed learning in the clinical learning environment.
CONCLUSION: Students cannot have effective clinical preparation if the environment is not conducive to and supportive of clinical learning, The study shows that military nursing students experience unique challenges as they are trained in two professions that are hierarchical in nature. The students experienced both facilitating and obstructing factors to their learning during their clinical practice. Clinical staff should be made aware of factors which can impact on students' learning. Policies need to be developed for supporting students in the clinical learning environment.