Aim To describe an example of qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) in a study about the role of clinical placement, nursing education and patient outcomes.
Background Clinical placement is often considered an essential aspect of nursing education and an invaluable way to prepare students for the reality of nursing. However, many questions about the role of clinical placement remain unanswered, such as duration, style and learning outcomes. QCA is a novel approach to data analysis, which has been used for some time in social science research, and may be useful in tackling such questions.
Data sources Participants (n=16) involved in a case study using questionnaire, in-depth interview and document analysis.
Review methods Few examples of QCA exist in nursing-related research. Examination of approaches to social sciences and educational research, and the conditions that influence nursing education and clinical placement were conducted via a number of online database searches.
Discussion The paper presents an example of how QCA was used to consider whether there is any causal relationship between certain features of clinical placement, such as duration, level of preparation, level of benefit, and the capacity of recently graduated registered nurses to provide a range of nursing interventions for pneumonia, falls and pressure-area care. Effective and contemporary curriculum design requires examination of the components of clinical placement that influence graduates and their learning, particularly important at a time when access to the clinical placement setting is becoming increasingly difficult. This paper should stimulate nurse researchers to consider the potential for QCA and case study in addressing many of the complex questions that lend themselves to research designs with small numbers of participants.
Conclusion This paper will be of interest to nurse researchers looking for innovative approaches to data analysis and educators responsible for curriculum design and the delivery of clinical placement experience.
Implications for practice A greater understanding of the role of clinical placement experiences in the education of nurses has direct implications for the provision of better health care.