Current evidence suggests that palliative care education can improve preregistration nursing students' competencies in palliative care. However, it is not known whether these competencies are translated into students' practice in the care of patients who are approaching the end of life. This paper seeks to contribute to the palliative care evidence base by examining how nursing students in receipt of education report transfer of learning to practice, and what the barriers and facilitators may be, in a resource-poor country.
We utilised focus groups and individual critical incident interviews to explore nursing students' palliative care learning transfer. Three focus groups, consisting of 23 participants and 10 individual critical incident interviews were conducted with preregistration nursing student who had attended a palliative care course in Cameroon and had experience caring for a patient approaching the end of life. Data was analysed thematically, using the framework approach.
The results suggest that nursing students in receipt of palliative care education can transfer their learning to practice. Students reported recognizing patients with palliative care needs, providing patients with physical, psychosocial and spiritual support and communicating patient information to the wider care team. They did however perceive some barriers to this transfer which were either related to themselves, qualified nurses, the practice setting or family caregivers and patients.
The findings from this study suggest that nursing student in receipt of palliative care education can use their learning in practice to provide care to patients and their families approaching the end of life. Nevertheless, these findings need to be treated with some caution given the self-reported nature of the data. Demonstrating the link between preregistration palliative care education and patient care is vital to ensuring that newly acquired knowledge and skills are translated and embedded into clinical practice. This study also has implications for advocating for palliative care policies and adequately preparing clinical placement sites for students' learning and transfer of learning.