Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)
Clinical education is a vital part of the curriculum for health care professionals as it prepares students for the realities of their professional role and allows them to begin integrating theory, clinical knowledge and practical skills. Previous research has found that pre-clinical programs enhance student confidence and comfort in the clinical setting, and that students value the 'real life' learning experiences and the consequent professional socialisation that occured as a result of the program. The aim of this research was to determine if involvement in a volunteer feeding program in an acute care setting develops pre-clinical skills in postgraduate Nutrition and Dietetics students from an Australian University. Two focus groups (n = 11) were held to examine students' perceptions of the value of the involvement in a volunteer feeding assistance program in the development of their clinical skills. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed by the primary researcher and then entered into a word processing document for analysis. Data was analysed for recurrent themes using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). In any phenomenological study the researcher's objective is to elicit the particpant's views on their lived experiences. Three major themes were decided upon which the researchers accepted as being representative of the data: (1) Development of communication skills; (2) Learning to work independently and with others; (3) Dealing with people from a variety of backgrounds. This involvement enhanced students' understanding of the importance of patient centred care, appropriate nutrition and hydration in the clinical setting, and provided the opportunity to develop pre-clinical skills.
Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)
This paper addresses the conference sub-theme of 'Educating graduates to be responsive and adaptable professionals' as it explores the development of pre-clinical skills in postgraduate Nutrition and Dietetics students through involvement in a volunteer feeding assistance program. Pre-clinical programs play a vital role in preparing graduates for their professional role.