“Relational Transformation”: A Grounded Theory of the Processes Clinical Nurse-Educators (CNEs) Use to Assist Students Bridge the Theory-Practice Gap

Joseph Osuji 1 * , Jane Onyiapat 2, Mohamed El-Hussein 1, Peace Iheanacho 2, Chinenye Ogbogu 2, Nneka Ubochi 2, Ada Obiekwu 2

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp. 71-86

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The theory-practice gap debate has permeated nursing literature for many decades. While some scholars insist on the existence of a gap and argue that the real value of nursing can only be represented by a broad theoretical framework that explains what nurses do; others have categorically rejected the need for nursing theories. The gap between theory and practice in nursing education has been highlighted as a pressing problem in developing countries where nursing education is in transition from hospital-based training to universities. Clinical Nurse Educators (CNEs) have important roles to play in assisting students to deconstruct their practices in relation to nursing theories. The goal of this study was to construct a theory that explains the processes clinical nurse educators employ with their students to bridge the theory-practice gap in nursing education. We sought to answer two major questions: How do nurse educators assist their students to bridge the gap between theory and practice?  How can we theoretically explain the process of bridging the theory-practice gap? The overall design for this research study was qualitative, rooted in the tradition of classical grounded theory (GT). This method of research has a unique feature in its ability to make possible the generation of theory that explains a process. Participants in this study were clinical nurse educators in Departments of Nursing Sciences, at universities in South Eastern Nigeria. Participants interview transcripts constituted data for analysis. The core category that emerged from participants’ data was "relational transformation” where clinical instructors facilitate a transformative learning process, mediated within the context of the instructor-student relationship and aimed at assisting students to transform into professionals. This relational process involves assisting students to connect classroom theory to what they experience in the clinical areas, through questioning, mentoring, role modeling, and reflection.

Keywords: Theory-Practice Gap, Nursing Theory, Transformation, Professional Socialization, Grounded Theory.