Who do they think they are? Undergraduate perceptions of the definition of supernumerary status and how it works in practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
130 Downloads (Pure)


Aims and objectives. The aim of this study was threefold and was based on three research questions; how did students define supernumerary status, how was it implemented in practice and what effect did it have on them?Background. Whilst there has been much debate about supernumerary status and its value to nursing practice and education there has been little work carried out from the student’s point of view.Design. The study was qualitative in nature.Methods. Focus group interviews were the method of choice based on the premise that the interaction between students/participants would generate rich experiential data.Results. Nine themes were generated that addressed the three questions asked. The themes to emerge from the category definition of supernumerary status were: not counted in the staff numbers and lack of student preparation. The themes to emerge from the category implementation of supernumerary status were: leadership style, experiences of mentorship, an extra pair of hands and not allowed to study. The themes to emerge from the category effect of supernumerary status were: their learning was enhanced, feelings of being used and reduction in self-confidence.Conclusions. There is a need to review what is meant or indeed expected from students who are supernumerary and increased clarity is required about what it is supposed to achieve.Relevance to clinical practice. The status of student nurses in practice has a direct link to the quality of the work they produce. This has a domino effect that may have far reaching consequences. Making sure that they are clear about what is expected of them from the outset will reduce confusion and allow them to move forward withskills acquisition and building their experience.Key words: focus groups, nurse education, nurses, nursing, supernumerary status,undergraduate student nurses
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1105
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2 Sept 2005

Bibliographical note

Reference text: Bradshaw A (2001) The Project 2000 Nurse. Whurr, London.
Burkitt I, Husband C, Mackenzie J, Torn A & Crow R (2001) Nurse
Education and Communities of Practice. Researching Professional
Education Series no. 18. ENB, London.
Castledine G (2001) The problems of student supernumerary status.
British Journal of Nursing 10, 626.
Cutcliffe JR & McKenna HP (1999) Establishing the credibility of
qualitative research findings: the plot thickens. Journal of
Advanced Nursing 30, 374–380.
Downes M (2001) Support for student training: a new role as demonstrators.
Nursing Times 97, 39.
Endacott R, Scholes J, Freeman M & Cooper S (2003) The reality of
clinical learning in critical care settings: a practitioner-student gap?
Journal of Clinical Nursing 12, 778–785.
Hyde A & Brady D (2002) Staff nurses perceptions of supernumerary
status compared with rostered service for Diploma
in Nursing students. Journal of Advanced Nursing 38, 624–
McGowan B & McCormack B (2003) Supernumerary status: definition,
operationalisation and its effect in practice. Intensive and
Critical Care Nursing 7, 308–317.
Morse J & Field P (1996) Qualitative Research. Sage, London.
Neary M (1997a) Defining the role of assessors, mentors and
supervisors: part 1. Nursing Standard 15, 34–36.
Neary M (1997b) Defining the role of assessors, mentors and
supervisors: part 2. Nursing Standard 15, 35–40.

hrling and Hallberg, 2000.

hrling K & Hallberg IR (2000) Student nurses’ lived experience
of preceptorship. Part 1: in relation to learning. International
Journal of Nursing Studies 37, 13–23.
Ormerod JA & Murphy FA (1994) One step along the way:
the introduction of supernumerary status for RGN students
in Foresterhill College, Aberdeen. Nurse Education Today 14, 30–
Parahoo K (1992a) Perceptions of supernumerary status. Nursing
Standard 6, 37–40.
Parahoo K (1992b) Implementation of supernumerary status. Nursing
Standard 6, 37–40.
Patton JG & Cook LR (1994) Creative alliance between nursing
service and education in times of economic constraint. Nursing
Connections 7, 29–37.
Phillips T, Schostack J & Tyler J (2000) Practice and Assessment in
Nursing and Midwifery: Doing it for Real. Researching Professional
Education Series no. 16. ENB, London.
Robinson N (1999) The use of focus group methodology – with
selected examples from sexual health research. Journal of
Advanced Nursing 29, 905–913.
Scholes J & Endacott R (2002) Evaluation of the Effectiveness of
Educational Preparation for Critical Care Nursing. ENB, London.
Spouse J (2000) An impossible dream? Images of nursing held by
pre-registration students and their effect on sustaining motivation
to become nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing 32, 730–739.
Watson R & Norrie K (1997) Conference report. The Edinburgh
University Nursing Society (EUNS) 2nd annual conference for final
year students on the theme ‘The supernumerary status of student
nurses’, held in the John McIntyre centre, University of Edinburgh,
Edinburgh, Scotland, 18 February 1997. Journal of Advanced
Nursing 26, 635–636.
White E (1993) A detailed study of the relationships between
teaching, support, supervision, and role modelling for students in
clinical areas within the context of Project 2000 courses. Research
Highlights. English National Board, London.
Yassin T (1994) Exacerbation of a perennial problem? The theory
practice gap and changes in nurse education. Professional Nurse
10, 183–187.


  • focus groups
  • nurse education
  • nurses
  • nursing
  • supernumerary status
  • undergraduate student nurses


Dive into the research topics of 'Who do they think they are? Undergraduate perceptions of the definition of supernumerary status and how it works in practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this