Exploring Informal Learning Among Hospital Nurses

Journal Club

Article: Bjørk, I. T., Tøien, M., & Sørensen, A. L. (2013). Exploring informal learning among hospital nursesJournal of Workplace Learning.

Background: Highlight that much research into nursing and the workplace and socialisation can focus on the negative aspects such as bullying, staffing levels and lack of support. This research focused on the learning opportunities in the clinical setting.

Aim: Explore opportunities for informal learning among nurses working on a hospital ward (Oslo, Norway).

Method: Field study on 1 ward (17 nurses, 1 educator, 1 nurse leader, 1 auxiliary), using participant observation, ad hoc conversations and formal interviews. Use of a triangulation of methods for in-depth understanding from the clinical setting.

Analysis Questions:

  1. Who was involved and where,
  2. what were they involved in,
  3. what were the opportunities (whether taken or not?) for learning situations.


  1. Arenas for Learning: actual locations around the ward, including staff rooms and offices provided opportunities for learning, as well as bedside teaching.
  2. Opportunities for Learning:
    • Multi-disciplinary pre-rounds with physicians
    • Handover
    • Around the ward whiteboard
    • Medication area
    • Staff room
    • Reviewing protocols and guidelines, often at a computer
    • Bedside working with colleagues, especially experienced nurses
    • Multi-disciplinary physician rounds

Limitations: Single centre (1 ward, 1 hospital, 1 city, 1 country).

Discussion: Junior nurses allowed to increase their responsibility by being guided in complicated nursing situations be more experienced nurses.

The socialisation process through role modelling, community of practice and shared quality values, especially from the nurse leader and experienced staff.

The shift handover provided a host of learning opportunities.

Keywords: Informal learning; hidden curriculum; mentorship; peer learning; workplace learning; communities of practice.

Additional Resources

Billett, S. (2002). Critiquing workplace learning discourses: participation and continuity at work. Studies in the Education of Adults, 34(1), 56-67.

Nursing Education Network. (2019). Workplace Learning.

Nursing Education Network. (2017) Workplace Training: Informal learning?