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Clusters of competence: Relationship between self-reported professional competence and achievement on a national examination among graduating nursing students

Journal article
Authors H. Forsman
Inger Jansson
J. Leksell
Margret Lepp
C. S. Andersson
M. Engstrom
J. Nilsson
Published in Journal of Advanced Nursing
Volume 76
Issue 1
Pages 199-208
ISSN 0309-2402
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Pages 199-208
Language en
Subject categories Other Health Sciences


Aims To identify clusters based on graduating nursing students' self-reported professional competence and their achievement on a national examination. Furthermore, to describe and compare the identified clusters regarding sample characteristics, students' perceptions of overall quality of the nursing programme, and students' general self-efficacy (GSE). Design A cross-sectional study combining survey data and results from a national examination. Methods Data were collected at two universities and one university college in Sweden in January 2017, including 179 students in the final term of the nursing programme. The study was based on the Nurse Professional Competence Scale, the GSE scale, and results from the National Clinical Final Examination. A two-step cluster analysis was used to identify competence profiles, followed by comparative analyses between clusters. Results Three clusters were identified illustrating students' different competence profiles. Students in Clusters 1 and 2 passed the examination, but differed in their self-assessments of competence, rating themselves under and above the overall median value, respectively. Students in Cluster 3 failed the examination but rated themselves at the overall median level or higher. Conclusion The study illustrates how nursing students' self-assessed competence might differ from competency assessed by examination, which is challenging for nursing education. Self-evaluation is a key learning outcome and is, in the long run, essential to patient safety. Impact The study has identified clusters of students where some overestimate and others underestimate their competence. Students who assessed their competence low but passed the exam assessed their GSE lower than other students. The findings illuminate the need for student-centred strategies in nursing education, including elements of self-assessment in relation to examination to make the students more aware of their clinical competence.

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