Beyond the Dedicated Education Unit: Using Cognitive Load Theory to Guide Clinical Placement

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Navigating multiple instructors and clinical agencies can impair students' learning by increasing their cognitive load and perceived stress. This study used cognitive load theory to guide the home base clinical model (HBCM), which assigned students to the same faculty and hospital unit for two consecutive medical–surgical clinical courses. METHOD:

The study used a quasi-experimental three-group design to evaluate the effects of the HBCM on students' perceived stress, compared with groups who changed hospital or instructor. A 10-point visual analog scale measured students' perceived stress on nine clinical tasks. RESULTS:

The study recruited 140 participants. Reductions in mean stress were greater for the HBCM groups than the other two groups. CONCLUSION:

The study findings challenge the current practice of placing students with changing faculty and facilities. The HBCM demonstrates potential as an effective model for increasing students' ability to learn by decreasing their cognitive load and subsequent stress in their clinical placements.