Review| Volume 26, ISSUE 1, P212-221, February 2019

The experiences of sessional staff teaching into undergraduate nursing programmes in Australia: A literature review

  • Marie Bodak
    Nursing & Midwifery, College of Healthcare Sciences, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Angus Smith Drive, Douglas, QLD, 4811, Australia
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  • Helena Harrison
    Nursing & Midwifery, College of Healthcare Sciences, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Angus Smith Drive, Douglas, QLD, 4811, Australia
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  • David Lindsay
    Corresponding author.
    Nursing & Midwifery, College of Healthcare Sciences, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Angus Smith Drive, Douglas, QLD, 4811, Australia
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  • Colin Holmes
    School of Public Health, College of Medicine and Veterinary science, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Angus Smith Drive, Douglas, QLD, 4811, Australia
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      The last two decades has seen a dramatic increase in sessional staff teaching into undergraduate nursing programmes in Australia. These staff undertake positions as subject coordinator, lecturer, tutor, clinical laboratory leader or clinical facilitator. Their experiences are mixed, with reports highlighting dissatisfaction with employment and preparation processes, and a sense of disconnectedness from academic staff and the organization. These factors may negatively impact the quality of teaching and learning.


      This review aimed to explore the following question: What are the experiences and requirements of sessional staff teaching in undergraduate nursing programmes in Australia?


      A search was conducted of CINAHL, Medline and Scopus databases, resulting in a final dataset of eight papers, which were appraised using the CASP framework and then thematically analysed.


      Three themes emerged from the appraised literature: 1. Who is the sessional staff member? 2. Misplaced perceptions of roles. 3. The impact of sessional staff teaching on the quality of learning.


      Sessional staff are vital members of teaching teams in undergraduate nursing programmes. Student experiences are enhanced when sessional staff are supported in their roles. Clarifying sessional staff’s goals and responsibilities, providing resources and strengthening their workplace inclusion will improve sessional staff’s experiences of teaching, and educational outcomes for students.


      Tenured and sessional staff have differing perceptions of each other’s roles. Ensuring job satisfaction and quality learning opportunities for students depend upon such understandings. Further exploration of the capabilities required to fulfil the roles being undertaken by sessional teachers in nursing programmes is needed.


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