Cherie Rebar, PhD, MBA, RN, COI
Nicole Heimgartner, DNP, RN, COI
Carolyn Gersch, PhD, RN, CNE
Reflect, Refresh, Rejuvenate
In the past few issues of the Fellow Advisory Network, you have explored how to take care of yourself as a nursing educator and how to take care of the students. Have you thought about the nursing program? You may be saying: “What? How can we take care of a nursing program?” or “Why should we take care of our nursing program?” or “The program is already created. You do not need to “care” for it.”
Let’s begin by describing a nursing program. A nursing program involves a structure based upon the institution’s mission, philosophy, and outcomes. The structure of a program consists of the organization of classes, timetable, concepts, and outcomes. Consider the policies and procedures associated with the program such as admission and attendance. These are part of the program as are teaching methodologies and learning management systems. According to the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, taking care means to do whatever needs to be done to meet a need, or to tend, watch, and protect someone or something. Programs have needs. Programs need to be tended and protected. Nursing programs need to be cared for, tended, and protected. You take care of a program through reflecting, refreshing, and rejuvenating.
The first step in caring for your program is to reflect on the program. Look at the program. Evaluate the effectiveness of the program in meeting outcomes such as NCLEX pass rates, employer satisfaction, and program completion rates. Determine what is working and what isn’t working. Identify strengths of the program and areas you need to improve. Program reflection should be a routine operation within the nursing unit. Your program stakeholders need to be encouraged to offer feedback and suggestions for improvement. Everyone’s program is unique and reflecting on ways in which your program is or is not effective is the first step in caring for your program.
The second step in caring for your program is to refresh the program. This means to update the program using the latest professional trends and research evidence. The program should be treated as a dynamic ever changing entity – not locked up on paper, placed in a binder, or computer drive and dusted off occasionally. You feed it with fresh trends, evidence-based information, new teaching methodologies, and delivery systems. In other words, your program should be growing and constantly changing in response to professional standards. Programs must change to be effective in meeting today’s and tomorrow’s healthcare needs. The program is tested every day by administrators, faculty, staff, and students in some aspect in relation to evolving current events. For example, if a medication commonly used for diabetes has been recalled and is taken off the market, the program will need to be reviewed to ensure the diabetes information is updated. This is a small example of how daily changes in healthcare practice can impact your program. If the program is not refreshed it becomes stagnant and sits in a corner quietly collecting dust and cobwebs.
The third step in caring for your program is to rejuvenate the program. Breathe life into the program. Continuously reflecting upon and refreshing your program helps to keep your program rejuvenated; not old and stagnant. Rejuvenating your program ensures your program is following healthcare best practices, is exciting, and dynamic. Changes to your program should be based on data collection and analysis.
Who is responsible for the program? Individual faculty members? Faculty as a whole? Administration? Students? External stakeholders? The answer is yes! Every one of these entities has a responsibility to ensure the program is alive, breathing, and healthy. That being said, caution should be taken to ensure that the program modifications are completed using a planned process so that changes are not haphazard. For example, a faculty member is teaching a course on research and believes quantitative research is the only method that should be used when seeking answers and thus teaches only quantitative research methods. The students experience a gap in their knowledge relating to qualitative research. These types of program changes lead to gaps in the students’ knowledge base which decreases their ability to achieve program outcomes. The faculty member may have an enhanced teaching experience and feel empowered to make program changes, but the student, the program, and the institution outcomes are not met.
Benefits of caring for your program results in:
- graduates who are prepared for current day practice
- a fresh, exciting, on-the-cutting edge program
- increased positive public relations
- student, program and institutional outcome achievement
- role modeling to students related to the need to constantly evaluate and change using effective change principles and processes
- increased faculty, student, administration morale
Neglect of a program may result in:
- less desirable graduates who are only prepared for yesterday’s practice
- a stagnant program that is behind the times and not current
- drifting of program structure and content
- gaps in concepts, knowledge, and practice
Remember one change can create a domino effect which can impact student level of knowledge, understanding, and achievement of outcomes. If you are taking care of your program, these changes can be positive. Consider having the stakeholders work together to reflect, refresh, and rejuvenate your program to prepare your students for excellence in nursing practice.
© 2018 Connect:RN2ED