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Assigning a failing grade to a student in the final clinical semester Greathouse, Susan Elizabeth


The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and feelings of nurse educators on assigning a failing grade to students enroled in the final semester in a diploma nursing program. Using phenomenological methodology, and Lazarus's process-oriente theoretical framework, nine informants employed in British Columbia Lower Mainland diploma nursing programs were interviewed and audio-taped. Data analysis sought to identify the existence of the phenomena and describe the essence of the experience. The findings of the study illustrate that assigning a failing grade in the final clinical semester is a stressful event for nurse educators. The prominent overriding theme which emerged from the data was stress. Two other interrel ated themes, uncertainty and isolation, were also embedded in the informants' descriptions of their experiences. These themes were stressors in themselves. Nurse educators described immediate and long-term effects of living through their experiences. Immediate effects included being more on guard, as well as modifying and refining their approach to clinical evaluation. The long-term effects resulted in these nurse educators being quite significantly affected by events. They could vividly recall the details of their experiences which left them with lasting impressions. These experiences served as points of reference for nurse educators when faced with other students having similar problems. Three major conclusions were identified. First, assigning a failing grade to a student is stressful. Informants described the experience as more stressful when the student lacked insight. Second, nurse educators expressed a need for emotional support from their peers. They reported feeling isolated and unsupported. They were acutely aware of the potential ramifications of assigning or not assigning a failing grade. This created an element of uncertainty that affected their decision-making ability. Third, the nurse educators believed that program administrators could and should have been more supportive in two major areas: 1) acknowledgement and reassurance and 2) consistent administration of educational policies.

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