The theory-practice gap has been the subject of much debate within nursing. Issues include: where the gap is, whether it is a positive or negative phenomenon and whether attempts should be made to bridge it. This paper describes a research study adopting an innovative approach to exploring the theory-practice gap by investigating it from the perspectives of three different groups: nurse teachers, student nurses and clinical preceptors. Combining the perceptions of these diverse groups has allowed a more complete picture of the theory-practice gap to emerge than is possible when examining it from one group's perspective alone. Twenty-three group interviews were conducted and content analysed to identify common themes. Mutual concerns were identified by all groups: shortness of clinical placements, sequencing of theory and practice, lack of collaboration between clinical areas and educational institutions and the lack of clarity regarding link teacher roles. All interviewees felt a theory-practice gap does exist, and whilst this could be viewed positively as a means of developing students' problem-solving skills, attempts should be made to minimize its impact. Ways to achieve this include: the development of an innovative curriculum allowing closer sequencing of theory and practice, evaluating the effect length of clinical placement has on knowledge and skill acquisition, improving collaboration between clinical areas and educational institutions and developing preceptors' lecturing roles.
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