It’s been a long while since nursing students have sat in large lecture halls blearily taking notes from a professor, class after class.
It’s been equally as long since patients have sat idly by waiting for their diagnosis and planned treatment care from their doctor, visit after visit.
However, the fact that these are bygone days is not necessarily a bad thing.
Thanks in large part to the evolution of technology, multiple treatment modalities that are more complex, and the increased number of disciplines involved in each case, today’s doctors, nurses and patients are now equally and more actively involved in the care process. The pace of these improvements also continues to challenge nursing instructors to continually develop and modify curriculum to reflect these changes.
“These advancements in care are definitely for the better in that they are improving the quality and safety of patient care across the board,” said Lisa Feller, a senior lecturer at the University of South Dakota’s Department of Nursing. “As a result, there is a greater focus on assessing the outcomes of what we do and being able to use that data to continually improve the quality of nursing education. So, yes, patients are definitely more involved in their care — they are the drivers of the team — the captain, so to speak. But, just as importantly, they are helping to drive the changes in the way in which we teach our students.”
A focus on caring remains
In the midst of dramatic change, however, Feller believes some things will forever stay the same: the focus on caring and the fact it remains at the heart of what nurses do, as well as the core values of nursing that are grounded on integrity, accountability, patient-centered care and excellence. Values that were tested significantly during the pandemic.
“This past year has truly highlighted the importance of helping our students develop strong coping and resiliency skills, as well as helping them to recognize and appreciate the difference they are making and realize how valuable that is within the health care landscape,” Feller said. “This is just what nurses do — we have an innate desire to help others. It’s the heart and soul of nursing and that will never change.”
Patient care at all levels
With the advancement of technology playing a significant role in patient care, nursing students are now participating in more simulated scenarios in the classroom, often working on inter-disciplinary teams, to actively enhance their onsite decision-making skills. Electronic health records aside, students are learning how to communicate among members of a large health care team, helping them fine-tune their on-the-spot decision making and timeliness of intervention skills essential in today’s fast-paced health care environment.
“This overall increased emphasis on clinical reasoning and judgement helps these future nurses to think critically and be able to make sound, safe patient-care decisions,” Feller said. “Naturally, this type of training involves a more focused connection between what they learn in theory and what they do in practice, and making sure the gap between these two things becomes smaller.”
To that end, Feller said the USD staff connects everything in the curriculum to practice and patient care, including the types of decisions a nurse will have to make working on a health care team. Skills far more advanced than what one might have written down in a notebook during class years ago.
“We have to ensure that our students will be prepared to be part of that inter-professional team involved in patient care at all levels,” she said. “Our practice health care partners continue to tell us that these strong communication skills are imperative.”
A skill appreciated by both educator, patient and medical team alike.