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Supporting Learners

I am a nurse and I have been asked to support learners in the practice setting.

Who is a “learner”?

Learners are not limited to nursing students. A learner can be:

  • a person studying to become a nurse,
  • a newly registered nurse,
  • an experienced nurse entering a new practice setting or health discipline, or
  • another health care professional.

What are my accountabilities when supporting a learner?

Regardless of role or title, nurses are accountable to:

  • ensure they have the knowledge, skill, and judgment to guide, supervise or support learners safely and competently.
  • place patient safety and well-being above all other objectives
  • support learners who are transitioning into the profession, a new role or new practice area.
  • support learners in developing and refining competencies needed for safe, ethical and effective practice,
  • provide direction, collaborate, and share knowledge and expertise

Why is it important to support learners?

Working in a supportive environment helps learners to identify their learning needs and increase their knowledge, skill and judgment to become safe health care practitioners.  Supporting learners also provides nurses the opportunity to reflect on their nursing practice and identify their own knowledge or skill gaps. By supporting learners, the broader health care team becomes more effective in providing quality patient care.

What if I feel that I cannot support a learner?

If there are circumstances where a nurse does not feel they have the capacity to support a learner in their practice environment, they are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their employer and/or broader healthcare team to plan ways to support the learner.

If the learner makes a mistake, am I accountable for the mistake?

When a learner makes a mistake, nurses need to consider the context of the mistake. For example, nurses are not accountable for the decisions of others when the actions are unknown or unexpected.  

Learners are accountable for their own actions and patient outcomes. Nurses take action in situations that compromise patient safety and well-being. Nurses also take responsibility for errors when they occur. For example, nurses provide constructive feedback to learners and the organization that is in the interest of patient safety and helpful to learning and professional growth.

Who are learners accountable to?

Nursing students are accountable to their educational institutions and placement organization.

Learners, who are regulated health professionals, are accountable to uphold the standards of the profession.

Unregulated care providers, are accountable to their employers.

What should I consider when supporting and assessing learners?

When supporting learners, nurses should consider the following questions:

  • How am I making myself available to the learner to support their learning?
  • How am I ensuring the learner’s supervision is appropriate?
  • How am I providing the learner appropriate and timely feedback?
  • How am I modifying the learning approach to meet the learner’s needs?

When assessing learners, nurses should consider the following questions:

  • What is the learner’s knowledge, skill and judgment related to the practice setting?
  • What is the learner’s scope of responsibilities, practice limitations and legislated authority?
  • Have I reviewed and discussed the learning plan (if applicable)?

What should I consider when assessing the learning environment?

When assessing the learning environment, nurses should consider the following questions:

  • Does the practice setting support learning?
  • How am I advocating for an appropriate learning environment?
  • Have I clarified the learner’s and nurse’s responsibilities?
  • Is the learner’s assignment appropriate for the learner’s goals and objectives?
  • What necessary systems and resources are in place to support the learner in a new environment (e.g., organizational policies, human resources, environmental resources)?
Page last reviewed May 10, 2021