What Exactly Makes Up Quality Nurse Education?

Every Friday on the ABC radio in Brisbane just after the 10:30 news a philosophical discussion takes place between the presenter Steve Austin and the online editor of ethics and religion for the ABC Scott Stevens.

Around this time I’m often driving between seeing clients and listen with great interest to the topic of the week. Today it was about education. ¬†What was it? How should it be structured? What is the goal? As a recent nursing teacher within the TAFE system preparing students for life as an enrolled nurse I have my own views on what exactly makes up quality nurse education and for anybody interested here they are.

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  • All nursing students must start with sound basics. Reading, writing and numerical skills are paramount pre-requisites for nurse education. Regardless of how passionate or caring someone might be or how desperately they may want to be a nurse without the ability to correctly calculate drug dosages or read doctors orders they will never be a nurse.
  • Say little but ask questions. Watch intently and practice. The very best nursing students that I have had did not necessarily top their class in exams or assignments. Often they did but not always. They are the ones who say very little to show how smart they were but are never afraid to ask questions. They also are not satisfied with just passing a practical skill assessment. Instead they practice until a high level of proficiency is achieved.
  • It’s often been said that there are no dumb questions. WRONG, there are but they shouldn’t be discouraged. For me as a teacher if I was asked a dumb question I saw it more of a reflection on the quality of the subject material or how I was teaching it. Dumb questions have many times brought me back and helped me focus as a teacher. The end result – better nurse education for my students
  • Critical Thinking. In some ways this is similar to the point above. I am at my happiest and feel as if I am doing a great job as a teacher when my students question what I am saying. BUT – only when it comes from a logical / critical perspective. In many ways the only way for a nurse to move forward is to explore and challenge why they do what they do. Good nurse education empowers the student to do this.
  • In nurse education it is not possible to teach caring, compassion and empathy. These are areas that can certainly be talked about and discussed but can they actually be taught and assessed? In fact is it necessary that a nurse have these qualities at all? What can be taught are a range of nursing theories and philosophies. While for some they may be seen as a frivolous was to pad out a nursing program I believe that they are critical. Without knowing where nursing has come from it’s not possible to see the potential for where it may go.
  • Seek out mentors. At the end of any diploma or degree in the field of nursing the newly graduated student is little more than safe to now start really learning the art of nursing. If educated correctly the graduate will observe and watch experienced nurses. Hopefully the critical thinking aspect of their education will have equipped them take away the best of what they see and discard the worst.
  • Finally, the pinnacle of good nurse education is that it never ends. Either formally via additional recognised study or less so by questioning the status quo to see if a better option can be made for the task at hand, forward movement to gain additional knowledge separates the great from the average nurse.

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Why do you think? Agree?

I’d love to continue the discussion with alternative and or additional points of view.

Posted in Health Tagged with: ,
One comment on “What Exactly Makes Up Quality Nurse Education?
  1. “It is not possible to teach caring, compassion and empathy…” I completely and wholeheartedly agree. Our Miss 7 unfortunately spends a lot of time in hospital and it is patently obvious which of her health professionals have these things and which don’t. I wrote about this same concept with regards to paediatric doctors a wee while back.

    I have to say too, while it may be the doctors who determine the treatment plan and make the decisions, in my experience the nursing staff are the critical piece in the puzzle. We are lucky to have some brilliant nurses on the children’s ward at our local hospital, they know our wee girl by name and always, always go out of their way to ensure she is as comfortable and happy as possible, whereas the doctors just breeze in and out twice a day on rounds and barely stop to catch their breath.

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