Nurse Educator Vol. 40, No. 5, p. 227

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Flexibility in Graduate Clinical Assignments Self-assigned Deadlines

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Graduate students need to manage and use their time effectively because many are working adults. Time management skills have always been a strategy for

success in any nursing program.1,2 One traditional approach in assisting students in managing their time is to assign spe-cific due dates for individual assignments.3 Even when such a methodology is applied, students may still request assign-ment extensions due to unforeseen circumstances. Is it possi-ble to empower students to self-assign deadlines for their assignments?

To answer this question, a 2-stage approach was imple-mented for 2 clinical groups enrolled in a graduate advanced practice clinical course in a university setting. Each of the 14 students was required to complete a minimum of 168 clini-cal hours with a preceptor. The students also had to submit 4 major graded assignments over the course of the semester. Instead of assigning deadlines for each assignment, the in-structor listed the due date for the first assignment and the last date to complete and submit the other 3 assignments. The first due date allowed the instructor to assess student progress and ensure that the student was actively engaged and at-tending the clinical preceptorship. The students and instructor met regularly face-to-face during clinical seminars to develop a clear understanding of the clinical objectives, review ex-pectations, and address each other’s concerns. Students also fully understood that there was no extension time given after the assigned due dates for any clinical assignments, unless under extreme circumstances.3

All of the students were adults with families and children, taking full course loads in a graduate program, and working full time in a medical facility. The outcome from the first stage of the study showed that only 1 student did not meet the first due date because of being 1 week postpartum. The second stage

Author Affiliation: Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, University of Alabama in Huntsville. The author declares no conflicts of interest. Correspondence: Dr Ng, College of Nursing, University of Alabama in Huntsville, 301 Sparkman Dr, Huntsville, AL 35899 ( Accepted for publication: January 24, 2015 Published ahead of print: March 13, 2015 DOI: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000160

of the study revealed that 10 students submitted all of their clinical assignments 2 weeks ahead of the actual due date. Three of the students submitted all of the required assignments 1 week ahead of the actual due date, and only 1 student submitted the required assignments on the actual due date.

In conclusion, if the instructor is amenable to being flexi-ble in clinical assignment due dates, students can be provided with options and choices. This study shows that many may voluntarily choose to complete and submit assignments in a timely manner. Such flexibility allows students to ‘‘juggle’’ their time and deal with issues such as family emergencies, sickness, preparation for examinations, and even complet-ing assignments for other courses. 4 This motivates students to exhibit responsible behavior and perhaps may reduce the stress levels of these highly involved students in a graduate program.

Acknowledgment The author thanks Dr Karen Frith, who assisted in the proof-reading of the manuscript.

References 1. Mirzaei T, Oskouie F, Rafii F. Nursing students’ time management,

reducing stress and gaining satisfaction: a grounded theory study. Nurs Health Sci. 2012;14(1):46-51.

2. Calderwood C, Ackerman PL, Conklin EM. What else do college students ‘‘do’’ while studying? An investigation of multitasking. Comput Educ. 2014;75:19-29.

3. Fernandez RS, Tran DT, Ramjan L, Ho C, Gill B. Comparison of four teaching methods on evidence-based practice skills of postgraduate nursing students. Nurse Educ Today. 2014;34:61-66.

4. Kuiper RA, Pesut DJ. Promoting cognitive and metacognitive re-flective reasoning skills in nursing practice: self-regulated learning theory. J Adv Nurs. 2004;45(4):381-391.

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