The Role of Self-Determined Motivation and the Potential for Pre-registration Student Learning: A Comparative Study within a Mental Health Clinical Placement

Publication Name

Issues in Mental Health Nursing


Developing therapeutic relationship skills as well as clinical skill confidence is critical for nursing students. While the nursing literature has examined multiple factors that influence student learning, little is known about the role of student motivation in skill development in non-traditional placement settings. Although therapeutic skills and clinical confidence are vital across a variety of contexts, here we focus on its development in mental health settings. The present study aimed to investigate whether the motivational profiles of nursing students varied with the learning associated with developing (1) a therapeutic relationship in mental health and (2) mental health clinical confidence. We examined students’ self-determined motivation and skill development within an immersive, work-integrated learning experience. Undergraduate nursing students (n = 279) engaged in five-day mental health clinical placement, “Recovery Camp,” as part of their studies. Data were collected via the Work Task Motivation Scale, Therapeutic Relationship Scale and the Mental Health Clinical Confidence Scale. Students were ranked into either high (top-third), moderate (mid-third) or low (bottom-third) motivation-level groups. These groups were compared for differences in Therapeutic Relationship and Mental Health Clinical Confidence scores. Students higher in motivation reported significantly higher therapeutic relationship skills (Positive Collaboration, p <.001; Emotional Difficulties, p <.01). Increased student motivation was also associated with greater clinical confidence compared to each lower-ranked motivation group (p ≤.05). Our findings show that student motivation plays a meaningful role in pre-registration learning. Non-traditional learning environments may be uniquely placed to influence student motivation and enhance learning outcomes.

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