Today’s employers have high expectations of nursing school graduates. Qualified nurses should think critically, have sound clinical judgment, advocate for their patients, be committed to lifelong learning in the field, work well with colleagues, reflect with open minds, and consider alternative points of view day in and day out. Above all, graduates must know how to ‘connect the dots’—link course content with real-world practice. That’s easier said than done.
If you’re reading this … you’ve likely flipped through your share of textbooks, course material and outside resources seeking ways to help your students learn better. Nursing educators continue to struggle with designing undergraduate nursing content that addresses the constant transformations in the healthcare industry. With traditional curriculum lending itself to difficult long-term retention, information overload at an all-time high, and disengaged students with varied learning styles, nursing school instructors and administrators have been turning in droves toward a concept-based learning approach to their nursing curriculum.
Some of the key benefits of a concept-based curriculum in nursing are as follows:
We all know how difficult it can be to keep students engaged and retain information after countless powerpoints and textbook chapters. That’s why more instructors are doing away with the more “traditional” model of teaching at the students. With the concept-based learning teaching method, students are put at the center of the learning process. They gain a deeper, more holistic understanding of course content - and with that, comes an easier transition to ‘thinking like a nurse’ and the ability to pull bits of clinical content from practice to use in real situations. Plus, faculty get to watch students practice in a safe classroom environment where lives aren’t on the line. Your nursing students will appreciate it, and it will be reflected in higher student course completion and satisfaction rates. Students who participate in these concept-based courses will feel more comfortable and confident dealing with the common diseases and situations they’re likely to face in the workplace. Health and medical employers are looking to hire nurses with experience in those areas, so it’s a win-win.
Few industries progress faster than medicine. New technology, reports, procedures, prescriptions - you name it. The traditional teaching method of using textbooks as the centerpieces of instruction and the main way to impart nursing education content couldn’t possibly keep up. In fact, Hall and Walton estimated in their 2004 paper “Information Overload within the Health Care System: A Literature Review” (Health Information Library Journal) that even a decade ago, a typical nurse would have had to read 17 articles every day to remain current in their field. A decade ago!
Fast forward to today, where information moves at lightning speed. Concept-based learning strategies allow nursing faculty to add or remove content as new information becomes available. This more active style of learning allows students to tackle topics in a way that helps them store the content in long-term memory, versus a more traditional curriculum where the material becomes more difficult to retain as the course progresses.
One key to helping nursing students learn better and increasing classroom engagement is to use active learning strategies in as many classes as possible throughout the entirety of a concept-based curriculum. Just presenting concepts and theories doesn’t mean students are truly grasping what they’re hearing. Sure, that still needs to be a part of the course; teaching still provides information, but it’s the physical practicing, experiencing, and storing of knowledge in long-term memory where the actual learning happens.
For this kind of learning to work, active student engagement needs to be part of the equation. It’s also important to keep in mind that in a single classroom, you could have any number of different student learning styles. There are visual learners, auditory learners, tactile learners, even students who have trouble staying in their seats or keeping “all four on the floor.” Teaching with a concept-based nursing curriculum that uses active concept-based learning allows students to make an easier transition from coursework to real-world situations with real patients, since they’ll have hands-on and practical experience prior to starting their jobs.
By incorporating concept-based learning into undergraduate nursing curricula, students will graduate with a stronger understanding of concepts and theories and be better prepared to enter the workforce. For more information on conceptual learning, take a look at this amazing resource with free white papers, webinars, testimonials, and additional links to help get you started.