BACKGROUND : Clinical guidance and support of nursing students in rural hospitals is a
challenge for novice nurses, who rotate amongst accredited hospitals throughout the province
for clinical exposure, and find themselves in an unfamiliar environment. Theory learned at the
training college is integrated with clinical exposure at hospitals and supplemented through
teaching by hospital staff. Nursing students complain about lack of support and guidance
from professional nurses within the hospital, some feeling restricted in execution of their
nursing tasks by professional nurses and other staff. Students perceived negative attitudes
from clinical staff, a lack of clinical resources, inadequate learning opportunities and a lack of
support and mentoring during their clinical exposure.
OBJECTIVES : This article describes perceptions of guidance and support of nursing students
by professional nurses in a rural hospital and suggests guidelines for clinical guidance and
support of nursing students.
METHOD : A qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual design was used. Two focus
group interviews were employed to collect data from a sample drawn from level II nursing
students from one training college in Limpopo Province, South Africa, on different days
(n = 13; n = 10). Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse data.
RESULTS : Three themes (mutual distrust and disrespect, hospital environment, and clinical
guidance and support) and subthemes (student behaviour and staff behaviour) emerged. CONCLUSION : Failure to support and guide nursing students professionally may lead to high
turnover and absenteeism, resulting in students’ refusal to be allocated to a rural hospital for
clinical exposure. Proposed guidelines have been formulated for clinical guidance and support
of nursing students at the selected rural hospital. The college and hospital management should
foster collaboration between the college tutors and professional nurses to ensure adequate
guidance and support of nursing students.