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Nurse Educator
Vol. 40, No. 5, p. 227

Copyright * 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

Flexibility in Graduate
Clinical Assignments
Self-assigned Deadlines

Nurse EducatorNurse Educator




raduate students need to manage and use their time
effectively because many are working adults. Time
management skills have always been a strategy for

success in any nursing program.1,2 One traditional approach
in assisting students in managing their time is to assign spe-
cific due dates for individual assignments.3 Even when such
a methodology is applied, students may still request assign-
ment extensions due to unforeseen circumstances. Is it possi-
ble to empower students to self-assign deadlines for their

To answer this question, a 2-stage approach was imple-
mented for 2 clinical groups enrolled in a graduate advanced
practice clinical course in a university setting. Each of the
14 students was required to complete a minimum of 168 clini-
cal hours with a preceptor. The students also had to submit
4 major graded assignments over the course of the semester.
Instead of assigning deadlines for each assignment, the in-
structor listed the due date for the first assignment and the last
date to complete and submit the other 3 assignments. The
first due date allowed the instructor to assess student progress
and ensure that the student was actively engaged and at-
tending the clinical preceptorship. The students and instructor
met regularly face-to-face during clinical seminars to develop
a clear understanding of the clinical objectives, review ex-
pectations, and address each other’s concerns. Students also
fully understood that there was no extension time given after
the assigned due dates for any clinical assignments, unless
under extreme circumstances.3

All of the students were adults with families and children,
taking full course loads in a graduate program, and working full
time in a medical facility. The outcome from the first stage of
the study showed that only 1 student did not meet the first due
date because of being 1 week postpartum. The second stage

Author Affiliation: Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, University
of Alabama in Huntsville.
The author declares no conflicts of interest.
Correspondence: Dr Ng, College of Nursing, University of Alabama in
Huntsville, 301 Sparkman Dr, Huntsville, AL 35899 ([email protected]).
Accepted for publication: January 24, 2015
Published ahead of print: March 13, 2015
DOI: 10.1097/NNE.0000000000000160

of the study revealed that 10 students submitted all of their
clinical assignments 2 weeks ahead of the actual due date. Three
of the students submitted all of the required assignments 1 week
ahead of the actual due date, and only 1 student submitted the
required assignments on the actual due date.

In conclusion, if the instructor is amenable to being flexi-
ble in clinical assignment due dates, students can be provided
with options and choices. This study shows that many may
voluntarily choose to complete and submit assignments in a
timely manner. Such flexibility allows students to ‘‘juggle’’
their time and deal with issues such as family emergencies,
sickness, preparation for examinations, and even complet-
ing assignments for other courses. 4 This motivates students
to exhibit responsible behavior and perhaps may reduce the
stress levels of these highly involved students in a graduate

The author thanks Dr Karen Frith, who assisted in the proof-
reading of the manuscript.

1. Mirzaei T, Oskouie F, Rafii F. Nursing students’ time management,

reducing stress and gaining satisfaction: a grounded theory study.
Nurs Health Sci. 2012;14(1):46-51.

2. Calderwood C, Ackerman PL, Conklin EM. What else do college
students ‘‘do’’ while studying? An investigation of multitasking.
Comput Educ. 2014;75:19-29.

3. Fernandez RS, Tran DT, Ramjan L, Ho C, Gill B. Comparison of four
teaching methods on evidence-based practice skills of postgraduate
nursing students. Nurse Educ Today. 2014;34:61-66.

4. Kuiper RA, Pesut DJ. Promoting cognitive and metacognitive re-
flective reasoning skills in nursing practice: self-regulated learning
theory. J Adv Nurs. 2004;45(4):381-391.

Nurse Educator V o l u m e 4 0 & N u m b e r 5 & S e p t e m b e r / O c t o b e r 2 0 1 5 227

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