Why nursing educators need to adapt to evolving healthcare trends
Undoubtedly, nursing is – and has always been – one of the most honorable professions. Nurses are known for delivering personalized, high-quality care to people who need it the most. However, such a level of quality has only been made possible by rigorous education. As everything in the world evolves, the nursing practice hasn’t gone unaffected. In this article, we explore how these imminent changes have affected nursing education and why it’s essential for nursing educators to embrace these trends.
Tracing the steps
Nursing education has come a long way. You might be familiar with Florence Nightingale, who is believed to have published the first nursing manual of any kind. The manual Notes on Nursing was published in 1859. Later, the Nightingale Training School for Nurses was opened in England.
Fast forward several more years, and nursing education had moved to universities. Currently, online nursing degrees are growing in popularity. Through online study, many nurse educators have learnt how to achieve nurse practitioner core competencies which include professionalism, quality and safety, and systems-based practice. Nurse educators can develop these skills and more through study at a reputable establishment, such as the University of Indianapolis, where the online MSN-NE program equips students with the vital skills needed to improve patients’ lives and influence nursing through service and innovation.
A shift from the traditional approach
The traditional education model focused on clinical skills and basic medical knowledge. While this produced dedicated and compassionate nursing practitioners, it is not adequate to cater to the needs of today’s complex healthcare systems. For instance, technology has become an integral part of healthcare. Therefore, nurse educators have to align the curriculum to this fact. Let’s take a look at the numerous benefits of adapting to evolving education trends.
Enhanced student engagement
Student engagement is one of the most critical determinants of success in nursing education. Therefore, when nurse educators embrace strategies that enhance student engagement, they set them up for success.
One of the ways that nurse educators can boost engagement is through the use of active learning techniques, such as simulations. Different types of simulations include unfolding case studies, high-fidelity mannequins, low-fidelity mannequins, partial-task simulators, and volunteers who act as standardized patients. Technology has also taken simulation to the next level through virtual reality. This technology allows educators to use computers and standardized patients to create realistic situations, making nursing students better equipped to handle complex issues in real-life practice. Nursing educators can also combine two or more of the above types of simulations to create an even more realistic simulation.
Another way of enhancing student engagement is by encouraging collaboration among students. Educators can achieve this through assigning group projects. This goes a long way to fostering a sense of community. It also teaches students the essence of collaboration, which is an important part of healthcare. Educators can also ask their students for feedback to identify areas of improvement.
Catering to different types of learners
There are four predominant learning styles: visual, auditory, read/write and kinesthetic. It can be argued that nursing education in the past was not diversified enough to cater to all types of learners. For instance, in the past, nursing education was primarily through apprenticeship. This would marginalize students who retain information better through reading and writing.
However, trends in education have made it possible for educators to accommodate diverse learning styles. Educators can tailor teaching methods so that no students are left behind. Visual learners can benefit from diagrams and charts, while auditory learners can gain from discussions and lectures. On the other hand, kinesthetic learners can benefit from simulations and interactive exercises, while read/write students can use written materials. Educators can apply the same principle in assessment. Assessment strategies include oral presentations, essays and practical demonstrations.
The impact of diversifying learning styles is increased knowledge retention and better engagement. Additionally, such a setting prepares students for the different environments they will encounter in their clinical practice. Exposure to different learning styles also helps students adapt swiftly to new challenges. This skill is useful in clinical settings, such as emergency rooms and community health clinics.
Preparedness for the digital age
As we mentioned earlier, technology has transformed healthcare – and continues to do so. Examples include the introduction of telemedicine and electronic health records (EHRs). Therefore, when nurse educators embrace these technologies in the educational curriculum, they adequately prepare the students for what is waiting ahead.
For instance, when students are conversant with EHRs, they are able to work collaboratively with the rest of the care team once they embark on clinical practice. Similarly, telehealth goes a long way to bridging barriers to healthcare access. People who cannot travel to see healthcare providers can receive quality care despite the geographical challenges. This means that specialists can extend their expertise to more people within a given period.
There are several ways for nursing educators to ensure that their students are prepared for the digital age of medicine. The most important one is fostering a digital mindset and lifelong learning.
Fostering critical thinking
A successful nurse is one who can think beyond their assigned tasks – that’s how they manage to deliver excellent care for their patients. For instance, a nurse might be tasked with changing a wound dressing. However, by having critical thinking skills, they can understand that a certain condition of the wound might correlate with the blood pressure and implement appropriate interventions.
Nurse educators can promote critical thinking skills through case-based learning. This exposes students to real-life scenarios, requiring them to consider multiple perspectives and develop well-reasoned solutions.
Educators can also engage students in Socratic questioning. According to Socrates, disciplined and thoughtful questioning enabled students to examine and validate ideas logically. Therefore, using Socrates’ approach, the educator feigns ignorance of the topic to engage in dialogue with the students. This promotes independent, higher-level thinking, giving them ownership of what they are learning. To successfully implement this line of questioning, a nursing educator has to plan significant questions to guide the discussion and allow enough time for students to respond. Types of Socratic questions include clarification questions, assumption questions, probing questions and perspective questions.
Another valuable technique that educators can use to promote critical thinking is problem-based learning (PBL). This is a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem.
Educators can structure the curriculum in a way that introduces complex scenarios over time. They can also integrate content from various disciplines to encourage students to consider multiple perspectives when approaching healthcare challenges.
Nursing education operates in a dynamic landscape – one heavily influenced by advancements in healthcare, evolving expectations from employers, and changes in accreditation standards. Besides, the demand for well-prepared healthcare professionals is on the rise. Therefore, remaining competitive requires a proactive approach to adapt to these changes.
Those nursing programs that align their curriculum with the prevailing industry demands are more attractive to students and employers. In that light, institutions should support ongoing professional development for educators. This helps these educators stay up to date about the latest technological advancements and industry trends that can bring a fresh perspective to the classroom. Educators should also review the curriculum regularly. That way, they can tweak it to accommodate new industry standards.
Fulfilling the mission of nursing education
While the fundamental mission of nurse educators is to produce nurses with clinical skills and theoretical knowledge, their mandate is to produce practitioners embodying compassion, empathy and commitment to patient care. That way, they can positively influence community health.
Therefore, nurse educators adapting to new trends align with the goal of producing well-rounded healthcare professionals. New trends also emphasize the importance of patient advocacy. When they join the workforce, these nurses can be on the frontline, ensuring that patients receive the highest quality of care and are treated with dignity and respect.
Harmonizing nursing education
Registered nurses are expected to come out of school with all that it takes to provide vital medical services to patients. However, education standards vary in different parts of the world. Therefore, a nurse whose skills are recognized in one country might not be qualified in another. While this might not have been a significant problem in the past, it is now a challenge due to the globalization of healthcare. This poses the question to nursing educators: how can we ensure that RNs are able to be responsive to international healthcare demands?
The answer to that question is harmonizing or standardizing nursing education. This is perhaps the most significant trend that educators need to embrace. The World Health Organization has been behind a movement to make this possible in recent years. The move would create new career opportunities in healthcare, such as medical tourism and telehealth.
The current landscape of nursing education
Currently, most countries have not established regional standards. For instance, in the US, there are several types of nursing degrees. These include licensed practical nursing, Associate of Science in Nursing, nursing diploma, and Master of Science in Nursing. Students have to graduate from state-approved schools of nursing to qualify for the national RN licensure exam. On the other hand, Australia has three categories of nurses: enrolled nurses, RNs and midwives. These are just a few examples of the disparities that exist across the world when it comes to nursing education.
Standardized curricula and quality assurance
Harmonizing nursing education is an excellent way to maintain a baseline of excellence. Students can receive high-quality education regardless of where they are enrolled. Additionally, harmonization allows for the timely integration of advancements in healthcare practices and technologies. Nursing education can, therefore, remain relevant and aligned with the current state of the healthcare industry, thus contributing to the ongoing quality improvement of nursing education programs.
Initiatives and strategies for harmonization
Although most countries lack regional standards, they have developed national frameworks for nursing education to standardize the accreditation processes. These frameworks are a crucial foundation of the harmonization process.
Collaborative efforts between countries are also a step in the right direction. An initiative such as the World Health Organization’s ‘Global Standards for the Initial Education of Professional Nurses and Midwives’ provided a framework for countries to align their nursing education programs.
Another critical strategy for harmonization is information sharing. Institutions should facilitate the exchange of information and best practices. There should be platforms for sharing successful approaches, innovative teaching methods and practical strategies so that educators and students can learn from each other. It is also vital to promote cross-institutional collaboration. This can take different forms, such as joint development of curricula, shared resources and faculty exchanges.
Fortunately, technology can make harmonization easier. Tools such as virtual simulations and online platforms enable educators to reach a wider audience and provide standardized tools for assessment and evaluation. Virtual simulations can also offer a standardized approach to practical training, regardless of the physical location of the educational institution.
Sharpening skills as a nurse educator
Nurse educators must also sharpen their ability to convey knowledge to their students. There are many ways to do so, such as continuous professional development. Nurse educators can attend conferences, workshops and seminars relevant to nursing education. They can also take online courses and engage in webinars to stay updated on the latest teaching methodologies. Another way of staying up to date as an educator is pursuing advanced degrees or certifications in nursing education.
It also helps to regularly read nursing journals, research articles and publications. These serve as good sources of information about the latest trends in healthcare. They can also foster collaboration with fellow nurse educators to share experiences and strategies.
It also helps for educators to stay connected to clinical practice. They can do so by participating in relevant healthcare activities or maintaining a part-time clinical role.
Most importantly, nurse educators should seek feedback and self-reflection. They should encourage constructive feedback from students and peers to identify areas for improvement. Self-reflection comes in handy when assessing teaching methods, effectiveness and areas for growth. They can also seek guidance and support from experienced educators in a mentor-mentee setting.
The future of the nursing workforce and preparation for practice relies solely on the quality of nursing education. Nurse educators play a vital role in ensuring the materials for students are updated to reflect this ever-changing educational field. Their role ensures students receive the high-quality education needed to enter the medical field. Therefore, all nurse educators need to be ready to embrace new trends.