As I am asked to speak around the country and address the future of nursing education, I often receive the query, “why does it seem nursing schools/educational programs continue to lag in responding to the current needs and expectations of society?”
Admittedly, the nursing profession, like many other health professionals in practice, are responding to the changes in our environment that are evolving very rapidly. However, it seems as though nursing education is built on a very historic framework and “success” is measured by passing a likely antiquated, standardized test. While certainly there is an intent to expand beyond “teaching to the test”, it is a rare nursing program that successfully synthesizes one or more of the incredibly important emerging areas of science such as:
· design thinking/human-centered design
· data management,
· social justice
· climate change/climate injustice
· mental health/violence
· artificial intelligence
These topics, and more impact health and well-being. There are many innovative nursing schools, such as Johns Hopkins, UPenn, Duke, UM Amherst, University of Portland, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University, Arizona State University and many others that I am not aware of. Let’s make progressive and even future-facing nursing curricula the norm, not the exception.
As an observer who has run her course through doctoral study and looks on from outside the gates of academia, teaching to the NCLEX does not feel to be of benefit to nurses as professionals or the complex patients’ nurses serve and can serve. There is importance in having a standardized exam/measure that identifies basic knowledge levels of nursing, and the current model pf nursing education requires more credits than most other undergraduate programs. I also understand that it is extremely difficult to move these credit hours around to accommodate the requirements of each state for the licensure exam.
However, I can’t help but think how we would better prepare future nurses by requiring participation in action learning experiences, such as hackathons… to solve a local issue that focuses on social determinants of health. Imagine what that could look like? Students identifying issues of importance to them and working with mentors applying a human-centered design approach. Not only would that be good for the community, and the school, it would be an amazing experience for the future nurses who are going to be the ones to lead many of these ongoing challenges in their future roles.
It goes without saying that while there are programs making progress toward this end, the profession would benefit from a significant overhaul and rethinking of educational preparation. I am a nurse; I am committed to being part of the solution. Let’s get moving.
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