Background: Supervision is sometimes used interchangeably with terms such as mentorship, preceptorship, and facilitation. Clinical supervision, however, constitutes another form of help, both for nursing students in becoming socialized in their new role, and for continued support of qualified nursing staff. It is much more a technique of embracing needs of nurses throughout their professional development, since it allows for exchange between practising professionals that can help them develop their clinical skills.
Aim: This is a literature review of the principles of supervision, the roles and the appropriate preparation for supervision and an appraisal of its effectiveness. Finally, strategies of supervision for encouraging reflective practice are evaluated.
Method: The data bases used for the literature review were Cinahl and Medline, mainly from 1985 to 2010 and the keywords used were: clinical supervision, reflective practice, clinical teaching, burnout.
Results: Controversial views, conflicting research results and ambiguity in the definition and clarification of the role of the preceptor emerge recurrently in the literature of clinical supervision. Clinical supervision is, however, regarded as an exciting, innovative and challenging clinical teaching strategy. There is common agreement that what is questionable is not the strategy itself but its implementation, which needs more intense monitoring, guidance from the faculty, support and collaboration between educators and practitioners.
Conclusions: Clinical supervision has always been a vital part of the practice of nursing, providing backup, support and learning to both colleagues and their patients. It takes advantage of the principles of adult education but is mostly shaped by the nursing practice. Nursing supervision implies caring for the patients, for each other and for other members of the health care team.