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STUDENTS´ DIARY AS CLINICAL PRACTICE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM

Introduction:
Within the new European Space for Higher Education, there has been a reorientation of University studies, including new methodologies for teaching and evaluating students´ competencies. On the Health Sciences´ field this new paradigm has important implications regarding the new competency profile of healthcare professionals. As an essential component of their training, on the Nursing Degree, students have a considerable weight of clinical practice within their academic curricula, which has been enhanced though the new structure of their studies after the implementation of the ESHE. As consequence, new evaluation systems need to be developed in order to adequate the assessment of clinical competencies as a more complex process and with its own objective in the future nurses training.


Methodology:
The students´ diary is presented as an assessment tool which provides qualitative information about students´ progress and development in the clinical setting. This system also offers an opportunity for reflecting on the different clinical areas experience and it has been used in other countries with the same purpose. The diary consisted not only in a descriptive explanation of the clinical practice but also a space for reflection and integration of theoretical and practical knowledge, complemented with a final self-evaluation. This part of the evaluation was triangulated with the clinical mentor assessment. A discussion group was performed at the end of the clinical practice period to identify the strengths and weakness of the process
and a double evaluation was obtained: continuous evaluation of the process and final results.


Results:
Students showed a high degree of interest towards this new assessment methodology, being able to provide more evidences of learning. At the beginning they need an extra support to orientate them towards the information to be included and the evaluation criteria. Contends were classified in the three main components according to competencies´ structure: knowledge, ability and attitude. Interestingly, students initially focused on the technical part of the clinical practice learning while gradually they started to consider other important issues related to the attitudinal area such as communication, interpersonal skills and empathy. The most lacking area detected was the knowledge development, which was subsequently addressed through specific sessions to support the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge.


Conclusions:
The introduction of this new methodology was positively evaluated by students, academic lecturers and clinical mentors, offering an alternative to traditional competency evaluation systems and providing a richer amount of information about students´ learning process. As conclusion, further analysis is required to design new tools and improve the existing ones, especially in areas such as Health Sciences disciplines where the practical learning is considered essential for the students´ future professional development.