Practicum Learning Agreements in Health Field

Introduction

The practicum learning agreement (PLA) refers to the mutual agreement between the student, the college tutor (supervisor), and the internship supervisor (Practicum assessor) regarding the expectations of internship learning experience before the activity commences. Through PLA, students have the opportunity to dicuss learning goals with supervisors as well as assess set goals for meaningful learning and development. In nursing, the practicum experience is an important factor for professional development. Therefore, a well constructed PLA should evaluate how the student will apply the classroom experience in the field for community and human health development.

The Practicum Learning Experience

The PLA, once completed, acts as a reference point for the whole internship process. It acts as a guideline for ensuring that the student learning goals are met and if not, necessary alterations can be made during the internship process. In constructing a PLA, the student should identify his/her learning goals and learning opportunities available at the nursing home, which is the practicum site. The internship instructor should also conceptualise the goals expected to be attained by student at the end of the placement process (Abbott & Lyter, 1998, p.43). Using these learning goals and expectations, the student and the field instructor can then compile a list of activities, taks, and ethics that are integral to the learning plan. Subsequently, a draft containing the planned activities and tasks, the time frame, and the method of evaluation should be developed. The draft should then be reviewed by the field instructor, the college supervisor, and the fuculty staff. Following the input made, the draft should be revised and a final draft prepared, signed and submitted. However, regular alterations during the placement process can be made subject to the assessors evaluation.

The PLA is a valuable tool in promoting educational and professional growth and development. The mutual expectations between the student and supervisors as outlined in the PLA enhance the students’ ability to identify roles and nursing performance standards in relation to community health. Such expectations also expose the student to diverse experience, which is important in integrating classroom experience into field practice. The student learning goals under the PLA are competence-based to ensure that the student develops his/her skills to higher level. The PLA also provides relevant information regarding professional ethics and values, mode of dress, interaction with patients, staff, community health professionals, and nursing home administration, which is important for professional development. The PLA also outlines the expectations regarding professional communication skills and behaviors in the practicum site.

Nevertheless, many challenges face the construction and implementation of PLAs. Diffences may arise between the field instructor and the student due to different learning styles between them. However, patience and respect can be key to negotiating a mutual agreement that can contribute to the success of the practicum process. Re-evaluation of the learning-teaching styles outlined in the PLA would ensure progress of the practicum process (Abbott, & Lyter, 1998, p.51). In addition, the practicum site may have differing perspectives or new ideas about the practicum experience and professional development from those of the student. However, by developing a well structured student-supervisor expectations, student goals and expectations can be matched with agency expectations, which ensures progress of the practicum process.

Conclusion

Practicum learning agreements allow students to set goals and expectations to be achieved during the practicum process. PLAs are important for educational and professional development. However, obstacles including the difference in learning-teaching styles between the supervisor and the student affect the implementation of PLAs. Nevertheless, by understanding the each other’s learning styles, both the supervisor and the student can be able to collaborate to allow the student to integrate classroom experience with field experience.

Reference

Abbott, A., & Lyter, S. (1998). The use of constructive criticism in field supervision. The Clinical Supervisor, 17(2), 43-51.