Do clinical placements influence attitudes toward consumers? Results of a comparative study examining stigma
Health care professionals play an integral role in the effective treatment of people with a mental illness. Their conceptualisation of consumers can impact on treatment outcomes and wellbeing, for better or worse. Unfortunately, mental health stigmatisation remains common among many health care professionals, including mental health nurses. Undergraduate nursing students are required to undertake clinical placements as part of their training. Workplace experiences are an invaluable component of their education, allowing them to apply theory to practice. It is arguable that student attitudes are heavily influenced whilst on clinical placement, most notably through contact with health care professionals and the people under their care. This presentation discusses the possible impacts of mental health clinical placements for undergraduate nursing students in the Australian context. It draws on completed research utilising the Social Distance Scale (measuring stigma), comparing 'typical' (in-patient unit) mental health clinical placements to a non-traditional mental health clinical placement among a cohort of third-year nursing students. Empirical findings suggest that a non-traditional mental health clinical placement is effective in reducing mental health stigma among undergraduate nursing students (n = 40). This was not the case for students who attended a traditional mental health clinical placement (n = 39). The practical implications for nursing education are discussed, with a focus on the benefits of immersive learning experiences outside the 'typical' hospital setting.