Inspiring collaborative nurses starts with collaborative education

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a trailblazing report calling for 80 percent of the nursing workforce to be BSN-educated by 2020. The ambitious goal was grounded in evidence that higher education equips nurses to be more effective caregivers and navigators in the increasingly complex healthcare system, according to an article from American Nurse Today.

Education does play a critical role in shaping aspiring nurses as informed, effective caregivers. Thus, it is crucial classroom environments inspire the compassion and result-oriented curiosity that ultimately empowers nurses to be enterprising leaders who take pride in always looking out for their patients’ best interests.

A culture of care starts in the classroom, where the curriculum and environments are the most influential components guiding the attitudes, behaviors and outcomes students will eventually bring to those they care for, along with their fellow colleagues. It is essential for nurse educators to embody a person-centered approach for each and every one of their students, and for students to have an active and collaborative mindset, to bring the concept of care to life and position nurses as change agents in their hospitals and for their patients.


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A curriculum of care

In my experience, faculty and staff who impart the right balance of expertise and personalized resources to their students can help them become extraordinary nurses who are highly skilled in the art of nursing presence—defined by anarticle in the Journal of Holistic Nursing as being in the moment and in immediate proximity to care for the whole person, not just a patient’s symptoms.

Nurse educators can facilitate nursing presence by empowering their students to ask questions, learn from their mistakes and challenge what they’re learning in the classroom, according to the book, “Affective Teaching in Nursing: Connecting to Feelings, Values, and Inner Awareness.” This open environment cultivates curiosity, which is essential to the continued progression of patient care. Nurses who bring a critical lens to their work can deepen the level of care they show their patients, and the same benefits between a caring professor/student relationships can be achieved in a caring nurse/patient dynamic.

A caring culture enriches education

Moreover, nursing presence starts in the classroom. At Chamberlain College of Nursing, our approach emphasizes the importance of student engagement, comprehensive academic resources, experiential learning activities and robust support services so our students receive the care they need to be successful throughout the learning process.

Through individualized resources and support during the entire academic journey, we encourage students and prepare them with nurturing values and behaviors to earn the trust and respect of their patients and other healthcare colleagues. We also help instill self-value by emphasizing how each student’s perspective matters and contributes to the field, which helps students exemplify that same care and service within the healthcare setting where they become employed.

Integral to this approach are instructors who encourage students to work alongside them as a partner. The approach also emphasizes the student as an individual with his or her own needs. For example, Chamberlain’s Center for Academic Success works personally with each student to help navigate the educational journey, ensuring students can visualize and follow a path to success.

Most importantly, this caring relationship translates from the classroom to the bedside--students who learn in a caring classroom are more likely to actively engage patients in healthcare--which in turn can help them become result-oriented caregivers, as an article in the Gallup Business Journal points out. Most importantly, increasing patient engagement can lead to improved patient outcomes, according to study published by Health Affairs.

Cultivating today’s nurse leaders

The nursing field is headed in the right direction, and healthcare leaders have an opportunity to interact empathetically with new nurses or nursing students to help foster their success.
We need to empower nursing students to make mistakes without fear of judgment. We need to show them they matter as individuals, and while we come from different backgrounds, we are all working toward one common goal: to improve the lives of the patients we serve, and to also take care of ourselves and our colleagues.

Classrooms designed for curiosity and critical thinking allow educators to engage students in lively discussions about hard concepts while respecting the opinion each student brings to the table. When we embrace that we, too, are lifelong learners who want care and attention ourselves, we’re more willing to be open to new ideas.

Nurse leaders have a unique opportunity to guide the nursing landscape of tomorrow. It is essential that we impart that care to each nursing student and set them up to carry on the torch as dedicated professionals who put the person at the center of everything they do.

William Richard Cowling III, Ph.D., R.N., is the vice president of academic affairs at Chamberlain College of Nursing. Dr. Cowling has more than 40 years of experience in nursing education, clinical practice, research and administration. He is responsible for the strategic direction of all academic programs at Chamberlain with a focus on quality, innovation and faculty development.

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