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Relational Coordination: The Perception and Experiences of Student Nurses and Nursing Faculty in a Hospital Setting

The purpose of this study was to describe and measure student nurses’ and nursing faculty experiences and perceptions of relational coordination during their most recent clinical experience in a hospital setting. The complexity of healthcare settings in the United States necessitates a coordinated approach to patient care in order to meet the divergent needs of its citizens. Healthcare students and professionals need to be prepared to work collaboratively and communicate proficiently and effectively. The theory of relational coordination states that, in a well-functioning organization, members of the healthcare team engage in frequent, timely, accurate, and problem-solving communication and have high levels of shared knowledge, shared goals, and mutual respect. This descriptive, exploratory study, conducted between May 2012 and December 2013, utilized Gittell’s relational coordination instrument to explore the relational coordination experienced by nursing students at several levels in their program in two pre-licensure schools of nursing in Massachusetts, which included a community college offering an associate degree in nursing and a university offering a bachelor of science degree in nursing. Participants were a convenience sample from each of these institutions. Nursing students and faculty in these programs completed the study survey. Data were collected through Survey Monkey. An analysis of variance and thematic review were used for data analysis. The analysis of variance performed to analyze student nurse reports of relational coordination with other student nurses, unlicensed assistive personnel, staff nurses, and nursing faculty in traditional clinical hospital settings revealed significant results. Post-hoc analyses revealed that student nurses in the traditional clinical setting reported lower relational coordination scores with staff nurses than those in the dedicated educational unit (p = .015). This study indicates that both nursing faculty and student nurses are experiencing ineffective communication in some clinical environments. Since student nurses in this study reported that increased time and familiarity with staff improved communication and relationships, nurse educators should develop educational models that increase that opportunity.
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