Nursing students internalise the art of nursing through clinical practice. The study was exploratory-descriptive and sought to answer the question, "what are the clinical practice experiences and coping strategies of first year general nursing students" ?. The objectives of the study were to: identify the students' conceptualisation of their clinical role; explore their clinical experiences; determine issues affecting clinical teaching and identify the coping strategies used. A pilot study preceded the main study . data were collected through audio-taped face-to-face individual and focus group interviews which were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. Two research assistants were utilised. The sample was purposive, with 22 nursing students of both sexes. Informed consent was obtained verbally. The data were analysed utilising the method of Giorgi, Fischer and Murray (1975). Research rigour was achieved through trustworthiness The findings indicated that nursing students conceptualised themselves as learners; had challenging clinical experiences as manifested by among others, unconducive ward environment, negative inter/intrapersonal relationships, inadequately structured clinical activities, and shortage of human and material resources. Maladaptive mental mechanisms were mostly utilised to cope. Furthermore, the findings suggested that clinical practice was predominantly 'patient-centred' and not 'learner-centred'. These findings have implications for nursing education, practice, administration and research.
UNISWA Research Journal of Agriculture, Science and Technology Vol. 4 (2) 2000: pp 171- 180