First Advisor

Hummel, Faye I.

Second Advisor

Hessler, Karen

Date Created


Embargo Date



This qualitative, phenomenological study sought to answer the question: How do undergraduate nursing students learn to perform psychomotor skills within the full complement of nursing skills? Nine senior nursing students from a nursing school in the south central United States participated in this study. In-depth interviews using open-ended questions were conducted, recorded, transcribed by the researcher, and then analyzed using Colaizzi’s method to identify recurring themes. These themes were validated with the participants using a member checking process. An audit trail was kept to enhance dependability and confirmability. Six themes were identified: (a) the umbrella of emotion; (b) practice, practice, practice; (c) learning through technology; (d) “just pretend” does not produce confidence; (e) teaching matters; and (f) importance of peers. Therefore, the process of learning nursing skills can be described as follows: In a rough sea of emotions, necessity is the mother of invention. Emotions like fear and anxiety punctuated skills learning and participants found creative ways to learn nursing skills despite these barriers. This study updates prior qualitative studies about how nursing students learn skills and is the first qualitative study of how undergraduate nursing students learn skills in the United States. One unique finding in this study was some skills like tracheostomy care and skills involving sterile technique are harder to learn than others. Faculty members could inform students that these skills will require more practice time. Another unique finding in this study was how fidelity and the broad use of technology across many settings contributed to skills learning. Faculty members could recommend that students use their smartphones to record and evaluate videos of the student practicing skills at home and discuss policies about recording faculty members demonstrating skills in lab. These participants generally found textbooks and videos from YouTube® and Assessment Technologies, Incorporated® to be minimally useful when learning skills. These findings provided current information to nurse educators about the skills learning process and recommendations for effective skills teaching.


Skill acquisition, Nursing skills, Nursing students, Life experiences, Phenomenology


195 pages

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