Supernumerary status for student nurses: a Scottish view

Garry J. Collins, Shirley A. Burns

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BackgroundThe literature review for this study is based on six studies, five of which were undertaken at a time when supernumerary status had recently been introduced, and four of which were undertaken in the Republic of Ireland, thus providing the need for a contemporaneous view from the United Kingdom.
ObjectivesThe two key research questions were ‘How do mentors view the supernumerary status of student nurses?’ and ‘What do mentors perceive influences the provision of supernumerary status?’
MethodThis qualitative study utilised semi-structured interviews with 12 study participants. Participants were recruited using a purposive sampling technique whilst study inclusion criteria sought participants who had been registered nurses for at least one year, and who had actively been involved with mentoring students. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and the resultant data analysed manually using qualitative content analysis, as described by Newell & Burnard (2006).
ResultsFollowing the qualitative content analysis of all twelve of the interview transcripts, three themes emerged from the data. These were ‘learning and working in a team’, ‘theoretical perspectives’ and ‘practical realities’. The theme ‘learning and working in a team’ comprised seven individual sub-themes which reflect the often dichotomous views prevalent from the study respondents. Within the theme ‘theoretical perspectives’ four inter-related sub-themes were contained within the data. The third and final theme, ‘practical realities’ represents the mentor’s views of supernumerary status and can best be termed as depicting their personal view of supernumerary status in action, as they see it in clinical practice. Within this theme seven sub-themes were gained from the transcripts, and overall these represent the validating experiences of the pros and cons of the implementation of supernumerary status. 
DiscussionFindings were wide and varied, providing a myriad of often conflicting and dichotomous views. The role and responsibility of the student were highlighted along with the view that certain student characteristics were more likely to see a student promote his or her own supernumerary status. There was also the view expressed by some that occasionally students would abuse their supernumerary status by refusing to undertake tasks when asked, and that mentors would often find themselves frustrated by busy workloads and a potential workforce whose priorities didn’t mirror those of the mentor. Some instances where de facto service contribution occurred were when emergency or unplanned situations meant student nurses being relied upon as staff members, or when, during periods of heavy workload, the conscience of the student dictates they help in the best way they can. 
Mentors also commented on the likelihood of supernumerary status being acknowledged by pointing to the nature of the placement itself, and dichotomised their view between community and hospital. However, there were also views which placed importance on the views and stance held by the charge nurse as to whether supernumerary status was recognised. Whilst there have been frequent calls in the nursing literature that there is a lack of and need for a satisfactory working definition of supernumerary status, the need, in the authors’ view, is for a multi-stakeholder view of supernumerary status at the local level. This provides opportunities to sustain an understanding of what it means to the various stakeholders in any one area. However, whilst this study makes these broad recommendations, the limitations of a small study size must be taken into consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2010
Event3rd International Scientific Conference on Research in Nursing and Health Care - Ljubljana, Slovenia
Duration: 16 Sept 201017 Sept 2010


Conference3rd International Scientific Conference on Research in Nursing and Health Care


  • supernumerary status
  • student nurses
  • mentors


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