The need for an educated nursing workforce is critical. The US nursing profession faces a shortage of 400,000 nurses by 2025. In addition, nurse educators are challenged with educating an increasingly diverse population within the current political and economic climate. Expert Yasith Weerasuriya has some ideas on how medical educators will meet the challenge.
Making Education More Accessible for Nurses
One of the challenges facing educators is the varying degrees in which future nurses have already received their education. While some are high school graduates, others have undergraduate or graduate degrees. Therefore, education should adapt to each student in terms of content and delivery style. To do this, it is important to ask students about their learning styles.
Educational content should be increased in both quantity and complexity. The curriculum should include what can easily be transferred to clinical practice, not simply a theory the student won’t use later. This requires nurses who graduated many years ago to function as preceptors for students who have just graduated.
The Nursing Curriculum of the Future
Nurses should be able to work in more than one specialty. Socialization must also change, with health care being a collaborative effort, not an individual undertaking. Finally, students should begin their nursing education at a much younger age – as early as middle school – so they have time to explore the profession.
It is also important to note that although the number of nurses is predicted to increase by 2030, many nursing specialties are severely understaffed. Thus nursing educators must provide students with opportunities for practical experience.
One way of providing practical experience is through an accelerated program before entering a baccalaureate degree program. This allows licensed professionals with years of experience in the field to become preceptors and aid their advancement toward an RN degree. This model includes positive mentoring, experiential learning (including clinical simulations), increased flexibility in scheduling, and computer-delivered instruction outside traditional lecture hours.
The result would be better-educated nurses who can adapt more quickly to change as the profession evolves.
The Rise of Online Education Programs
Nurses will be able to take advantage of online educational opportunities as a means of expanding their horizons and gaining a wider range of knowledge. The advantage that the internet offers is that it allows for a higher number of individuals to access learning opportunities without requiring additional resources from schools. In addition, online education has been found to improve clinical performance in students with lower socioeconomic status.
When using technology as an educational tool, it is important to start early, as most young learners are adept at electronic communication tools such as cell phones and video games. Nursing educators should also create new strategies that bridge the gap between online and traditional classroom education. For example, one study shows that nursing students benefit from computer-assisted instruction (CAI) and increased interaction with faculty.
There are many obstacles that nursing professionals will face as the profession evolves into the future. However, taking advantage of online education can allow more students to be reached, using modern technology to advance the profession and improve patient outcomes.