Evaluation and Theoretical Framework Analysis of a Nursing Curriculum

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Evaluation and Theoretical Framework Analysis of a Nursing Curriculum

The nursing program curriculum provides a foundation for learning and is associated with students’ success or failure. For the graduates of a specific program to be able to perform in practical settings effectively, the contents of the curriculum must meet regulatory requirements. Certain agencies such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLNNEA) offer accreditation for nursing programs to ensure quality and integrity of education. Academic nurse educators (ANEs) play an essential role in ensuring that nursing programs meet different criteria. Curriculum evaluation in nursing education is crucial because it helps discover areas of potential improvement. ANEs have a responsibility to evaluate curriculum and establish the effectiveness of the program in meeting the desired outcomes, and consequently determine how the program can be improved. This paper incorporates the evaluation and theoretical framework analysis of the RN to BSN program that is offered at Indiana University.

Nursing Curriculum and Learner Population

The RN to BSN program at Maryville University strives to help nurses who hold a registered nurse (RN) license to advance their skills and careers in nursing. The curriculum is designed with the adult learner in mind and focuses on the needs of the working nurses and their employers. The program is vital for registered nurses who want to move forward in their careers. The program is offered online, hence flexible, and it is designed for working nurses who require a balance between education, career and family responsibilities. At Indiana University, all coursework for the RN to BSN program is offered online; hence student nurses do not have to visit the campuses. The curriculum is flexible, thereby allowing students to work at their own pace. Students can either opt for full-time study or part-time study. The curriculum also tailors practicums and clinical experiences according to the students’ experiences, and these can be completed at an individual’s workplace.

The program is beneficial for nurses and healthcare organizations. The current healthcare system is characterized by complex health needs, and for the system to be able to meet these demands, there is a need for a highly-skilled nursing workforce. The RN to BSN curriculum at Indiana University therefore prepares students to meet this demand and also assists students to gain more professional skills and knowledge. Nurses play a pivotal role in the current healthcare system; hence they need a well-rounded and comprehensive education. The curriculum, therefore, focuses on building the nurses’ clinical skills, critical thinking skills, and leadership skills. Healthcare organizations with BSN prepared RNs to have better care outcomes, and additionally, BSN-prepared nurses have a better competitive edge as well as better skills for making a difference in the healthcare system.

Mission statement and Course Descriptions

            The curriculum’s mission statement is to prepare outstanding nurses to be clinicians, educators, leaders, innovators, and scientists by partnering with students, health care professionals, organizations, and communities. The purpose is to inspire lifelong learning and to promote better health for populations and communities. By ensuring that students have an innovative learning environment, the curriculum supports excellence in education and research to advance population health (Indiana University, 2020). The curriculum reflects the competencies that nurses need to work in the current healthcare environment. The curriculum includes nine core courses that include health policy, transition to baccalaureate nursing practice, a multisystem approach to the health of the community, data analysis in clinical practice can healthcare research, informatics, applied healthcare ethics, nursing research and evidence-based practice, nursing management and capstone.

Health policy is a course that addresses the social, ethical, cultural, economic, and political issues that affect health and nursing services’ delivered globally. Additionally, governmental and entrepreneurial interests are examined. Transition to baccalaureate nursing practice prepares students for the role of a professional nurse and ensure that nurses understand the essential elements of baccalaureate professional practice. The course examines the role of teamwork, collaboration and communication in improving patient safety. Students also explore professional nursing organization, issues in professional nursing and the importance of lifelong learning in career development. A multisystem approach to the health of the community addresses basic epidemiological principles and community nursing. The main concepts include community assessment, disease prevention strategies, and health promotion at the community level. Data analysis in clinical practice can healthcare research is a course that focuses on the techniques of data analysis that are applicable in professional nursing practice. The main concepts addressed in the course include measurement, data summarization, and univariate and bivariate statistics. Informatics analyzes the concepts of nursing and technology and information management. Applied healthcare ethics focuses on the role of a nurse in ethical clinical practice, health policy, academic work, and research conduct, in addition to the advocacy role of the nurse. Nursing research and evidence-based practice help students to develop skills in retrieving and appraising literature relevant to clinical issues. Students also learn to critique evident from research publications (Indiana University, n.d.-b).

Nursing management focuses on the development of management skills, that are ideal for professional nurses. These include delegation, networking, conflict resolution, leadership, case management and collaboration. Clinical practice capstone is the last course which allows students to synthesize knowledge gained throughout the program, and in addition, demonstrate competencies that are consistent with the program learning outcomes. In this course, students are expected to design a nursing project (Indiana University, n.d.-b). The curriculum integrates a wide range of concepts that are crucial in nursing practice. While the curriculum incorporates contemporary aspects of nursing practice, it fails to address the issue of gerontology care, which is a vital aspect in today’s healthcare system. Gerontological nursing is included in the nursing electives, which means that the curriculum may produce some graduates with insufficient knowledge in the care of older adults since not all students will choose the course. This can result in adverse outcomes, primarily because the current healthcare system is characterized by an increased aging population who have complex healthcare needs.

Professional Standard, Guidelines and Competencies

The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The agency provides professional standards and competencies that are aimed at improving the quality and integrity of nursing programs. The agency sets strict student achievement metrics. The first CCNE standard for the RN to BSN program is ensuring the goals, mission and expected outcomes of the program are congruent with the parent institution and reflects professional nursing standards. As mentioned earlier, the mission and program outcomes of the program reflect Indian University’s goals. The second standard is ensuring that the parent institution demonstrates a commitment to support the program. This is evidencing in that the institution opts to provide resources for online curriculum delivery. The third standard is ensuring that the curriculum is developed in accordance with the programs; goals, mission and student outcomes. The fourth standard is ensuring that the program is effective in fulfilling its mission through the achievement of student learning outcomes (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education [CCNE], 2018). The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) essentials also guide the RN to BSN curriculum. The essential scholarship of evidence-based practice essential is demonstrated in the nursing-research and evidence-based practice course. Information management and application of patient care technology is demonstrated in the informatics course. Healthcare policy, finance and regulatory environments is demonstrated in the health policy course. Interprofessional communication and collaboration for improving patient health outcomes is demonstrated in the elements of baccalaureate professional practice and nursing management courses. Clinical prevention and population health is demonstrated in the multisystem approach to the health of the community. Finally, the professionalism and professional values essential is demonstrated in the applied healthcare ethics course.

Student Learning Outcomes

            Once the students complete the program, they are expected to be able to perform in the contemporary clinical environment. Students will be able to think critically and demonstrate intellectual engagement as well as the use of evidence as a basis for clinical reasoning and decision-making. This relates to the AACN scholarship of evidence essential, which requires nurses to learn to translate evidence to practice. Upon program completion, students will demonstrate cultural sensitivity, allowing them to provide holistic individual, family, community and population-centered nursing. Students will also be able to coordinate care and facilitate access to resources across the continuum of healthcare environments. Students will also demonstrate an understanding of the impact of health care policy, finance, and regulatory environments on care delivery. Students will also be able to translate the inherent values of the nursing profession to the ethical and legal practice of nursing. Upon program completion, students will be able to communicate effectively with the interprofessional care team members. Students will also be able to apply innovations in technology in the delivery of quality patient care (Indiana University, n.d.-a). These learning outcomes relate to the AACN essentials of baccalaureate education, and they demonstrate the students’ ability to with patients, across the lifespan and the continuum of healthcare environments.

The process to Update Healthcare Knowledge

            While the program provides students with a comprehensive knowledge base on nursing practice in the contemporary healthcare environment, there lacks adequate incorporation of gerontological content in the current curriculum. Enhancing the competencies of nursing students in gerontological care is vital, considering the importance of the management of chronic conditions, especially for the aging population. From the analyzed curriculum, it is evident that nursing graduates have limited knowledge of caring for older adults. This, therefore, creates the importance of integrating geriatric competencies in the curriculum. The AACN also recognizes the importance of incorporating geriatric content in the nursing curriculum. The purpose of this is to ensure that nurses have adequate knowledge to provide optimal care for the geriatric population (MacIntyre & McInnis-Perry, 2014). The process, therefore, begins with assessing the gap in the nursing curriculum and comparing the current curriculum with facilities that have integrated gerontological content successfully. The next step is to utilize professional nursing organizations recommendations, such as the ACCN to incorporate gerontological content in the nursing curriculum. Substantial gerontological content can therefore be introduced through the integration of a stand-alone course.

Organizing Design and Theoretical Framework or Model

The theoretical framework underlying the curriculum consists of the formulation of the faculty’s conceptualization of nursing. The curriculum consists of concepts derived from numerous behavioral and nursing theories. The curriculum design encourages students to progress from technical rationality to reflective practice. Reflective practice is vital in nursing, as it ensures enhanced nursing care. Nurses who adopt the practice have a better understanding of their actions, which consequently leads to improved professional skills. The RN to BSN curriculum is guided by The Reflective Practitioner, which was developed by Donald Schön. This framework addresses five attributes of reflective practice that include reflective conversation, fluid inquiry, conceptualization, cognitive frame analysis, and artful design (Ramage, 2017). The curriculum emphasizes on critical thinking when caring for families and populations. The framework is based on the integration of theory into practice, which is emphasized in the RN to BSN program since students are expected to learn to analyze evidence and make critical decisions using this information.

History of Organizing Design and Theoretical Framework

            The concepts of reflective practice originate from early researchers such as John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Pieget. Donald Schön later wrote his book on The Reflective Practitioner in 1983, where he introduced concepts such as concepts such as reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action (Ramage, 2017). When developing the framework, Schön realized that schools failed to teach what practitioners need in complex working environments. The inability of professionals to apply knowledge in practice was a concern for Schön. This led to the development of The Reflective Practitioner framework, which emphasizes on the need of professionals to learn from their experience. This, therefore, means that nursing students ought to learn to reflect-in-practice and on-practice. This is especially important when dealing with ethical issues, which are common in nursing practice.

Concepts of Organizing Design and Theoretical Framework

            Reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action are the two main concepts of The Reflective Practitioner framework. These concepts explain how professionals meet the challenges they face in their work and improve their practice through improvisation. In nursing practice, reflection is crucial, as it provides nurses with an opportunity to think about their actions and evaluate themselves. This promotes lifelong learning, which is emphasized in the RN to BSN program. Reflective practice is especially vital in directing learning and is vital in improving communication and enhancing decision-making. These concepts apply to the RN to BSN curriculum, which addresses issues such as interprofessional collaboration, teamwork and critical decision-making. Continuous improvement is vital in nursing practice, hence the importance of this framework in the curriculum design (Caldwell & Grobbel, 2013).