It’s time to modernize


The first university was created by Plato in Ancient Greece sometime around 380 BC.

The Academy, as it was called, was dedicated to teaching philosophy and rhetoric, preparing its students to think critically and logically.

This ability, which isn’t easy, permitted students to analyze ideas – whether they were their own, or someone else’s – and determine if they were, or were not, logically sound.

Albeit, modern universities teach more than philosophy and rhetoric, their purpose remains relatively the same: creating a sustainable environment conducive for students to develop creativity and refine their critical thinking skills.

The very nature and function of the university fosters a hotbed for radical ideas, idealism, and idiosyncrasies.

The university classroom is, or at least should be, a sanctuary, an intellectual lab where young minds can collaborate, debate, and espouse ideas.

Nursing Education Reform

The classroom is supposed to be a cerebral experience, an environment conducive for creating intellectuals, ideologues, and iconoclasts.

Albeit professional disciplines, such as business, nursing, and law are taught differently than their non-professional counterparts, all academic disciplines are mere branches of the same tree.

Or at least they should be.

Over my lifetime, I’ve studied several different academic disciplines, ranging from economics to nursing, history to business.

And out of all the disciplines I’ve studied, nursing excluded, my professors expected, if not demanded, independent thought.

As a student nurse, my professors didn’t encourage this, nor did they facilitate debate and dialogue. Instead they attacked us with boring PowerPoint presentations, outdated didactic methods, and rote memorization.

Out of all my academic studies, nursing was, by far, the most laborious intellectual pursuit I’ve pursued, a considerable feat, considering I spent two years of my life drawing supply and demand graphs and studying how interest rates affect bond prices—two of the most unexciting exercises in all of academia.

The purpose of nursing school is to, as previously mentioned, create an academic and scholarly environment conducive for pupils to ascertain the ability to think critically; the primary goal of nursing school isn’t just to teach fundamental nursing skills, but rather provide nursing students with skills and intellectual capabilities to interpret data, solve problems, and, if need be, question authority.

In my opinion my program failed, and it failed miserably.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my short tenure as a nursing student.

I’ve been chewing on some ideas which I think may improve the quality of nursing programs, not only at my university, but universities with similar programs.

I’m convinced that with reform, university nursing programs can be both intellectually stimulating and pragmatic, promoting, rather than preventing, critical thinking skills and squelching independent thought.

My recommendations:

  • Respect Academic Specialization

It’s counterproductive and counterintuitive for trained nurses to teach anything other than nursing, as this is their specialty.

Albeit, while nurses must be well-rounded, they’re not qualified to teach pathophysiology, pharmacology, ethics, and/or religion unless they’ve been formally trained in these disciplines.

And, of course, all of them weren’t.  When I was a history student, my history professors didn’t teach economics because, well, they weren’t economists.

We discussed the historical ramifications of the Great Depression and the New Deal, but my history professors left economics to the economists.

  • Create Dialogue

As an academic discipline, it’s academically absurd to prevent pupils from discussing and debating issues pertinent to their field of study.

At my university debate was discouraged.  Furthermore, all controversial topics, which were usually related to ethics, were minimized.

Oddly, all my professors were politically correct, a detriment in an academic setting, as political correctness is a form of censorship, an ineffectual didactic method preventing critical thought.

All students, whether they’re studying anthropology, medicine, or fashion, must discuss the ethical and controversial issues relevant to their field.

As one of my undergraduate professors said, “If you don’t want to get mad, you shouldn’t be here.”

  • Understand the Purpose of Professionalism

Nursing is an applied science, that is, we use our nursing skills in a clinical setting.

As far as clinical is concerned, I appreciate, support, and find it appropriate for students to act professional in a professional setting, but in the classroom, I find it anathema.  In a classroom setting, we’re not professionals, we’re pupils.

  • Purge Unnecessary Work

I’m not sure why, but my professors frequently assigned work with little value.

I hate to admit this, but as a nursing student, I was assigned several crossword puzzles and word searches, educational exercises which probably made Plato himself roll over in his grave.

Also, I understand the importance of care plans, but as a modern nurse, we create care plans with modern technology.

Yes, I understand, it’s important to know how to create care plans from scratch, but it’s 2013, not 1913.  If we spent less time working needlessly on care plans, we could devote more time, I don’t know, studying.

In the End

All in all, these recommendations are my opinion.  I don’t have all the answers, but most of us don’t.  It’s time to modernize university nursing programs, as they’re just so 20th century.  If you agree or disagree, please, by all means, let me know.

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