Philosophy of nursing education: Personal perspectives
My personal philosophy of nursing education is a work in progress as I continue to grow as a nurse, an educator and as a scholar of nursing education. I am not new to the role of nurse or educator, but newer to the role of nursing educator. One of my faculty assignments at the University of West Georgia School of Nursing is to submit my philosophy of teaching with my annual evaluation. It appears that my thoughts about teaching in nursing education have changed on a yearly basis. I see the transition as moving away from a novice nursing educator and, hopefully, progressing on the path towards expert. The purpose of this paper is to express my current philosophical views on the nature of human beings, nursing, knowledge, education and teaching/learning.
I believe that humans are multi-faceted biopsychosocial, spiritual, emotional and cultural beings; that all human beings are unique, divinely-created beings with diverse and complex attributes, abilities and needs. Individuals are shaped by environmental and innate factors. As a young nurse, I was challenged to see the whole person but rather saw a disconnected body, mind or spirit. Since I started teaching nursing students and was obligated to discuss holism with them, I have had an awakening to the many facets of my patients that I believe I had either missed out on or did not take the opportunity to clearly see. I believe that clients, and subsequently students, faculty colleagues and our community partners are best viewed holistically to capture the essence of the person and the context of the environment in which they function. This holistic view facilitates the caring lens through which, I believe, humans should view one another as it spawns empathy and compassion in how we feel and respond toward them.
To translate these views specifically to nursing education, I hold the same beliefs about students as human beings. Students as unique individuals have characteristics and gifts to offer themselves, others (clients, families, peers, staff and faculty) and the profession. Due to the complexity of admission to a nursing program, I believe that students come with a desire and capacity to learn. I believe there is one main difference in my mind between nursing clients and nursing students. Generally speaking, clients have a health need which may place them at a lower level on the health and wellness continuum. Of course there are exceptions, but students generally present themselves in more health with a learning need rather than a health need.
I believe for there to be "nursing", there must be a person or persons (a client and/or nurse) and a health need in the context of an environment which constitute the metaparadigm. Nursing, in a broad context, can be carried out by the unskilled person who has a desire to provide empathetic care to those in need, such as a mother caring for her fevered child. In our modern era, nursing is an academic discipline and a service profession with the purpose to promote health and provide artfully-practiced, scientifically-based, effective, and compassionate care in a socially responsible manner. Nursing allows the privilege of sharing with other human beings their joys and sorrows, sickness and health. I believe that nursing has a foundation in the arts, humanities and sciences and that nurses should be educated in these areas, as well as, essential nursing knowledge, skills and attitudes to function effectively in their role as professionals.
Knowledge is similar concepts or principles which are learned or experienced and, when grouped, form an understanding or comprehension. I believe that to truly "know" something, it must be sensorially experienced rather than learned, however, that is dependent on the definition of what it is to know. I feel a certain inner conflict with regards to how knowledge is acquired. The empiricist in me believes that truth must be investigated and tested, but the emotional, sensitive part of me says that knowledge can be attained through feelings and instincts. I know that I love other people not by a scientifically controlled test, but by how I feel about them. I believe that there are different types of knowledge and that they can be arrived at in different ways.
Knowledge can be factual, such as memorizing a list of items, or it can be productive where identified concepts are synthesized into new knowledge, skills, abilities or information. I believe that knowledge is enlightenment and intelligence and is only attainable by human beings; and that through the acquisition of knowledge, humans initiate self-actualization and can begin to fulfill their purpose on this earth.
My philosophy regarding education is eclectic. For the most part, my beliefs in myself and others are based in idealism. I seek high ideals, perfection and Utopian standards. I care deeply about how one is perceived and find myself overly committed in almost every area of my life. Unfortunately, none are perfect and so realism bridles my optimism. I recognize that humans (teachers, students and nurses) work better when there is a reward, that even though there is a desire, I cannot always work at one-hundred percent efficiency, and that while striving for organization, my office may be cluttered. I also identify with progressivism and support the notions of experiential learning, adaptability, and working hard toward goals to meet individual needs and perceived values.
I believe that to be educated is more than being trained or knowledgeable or socialized. It can be a combination of all these, but I believe education is also more. I agree that being educated should transform the individual$#146;s outlook and find that my own standards are elevated by what I know. I believe that education, as was stated with knowledge, is a synthesis of knowledge, skills, information, training and/or socialization which changes the individual's abilities and re-forms attitudes. In my opinion, this education is closely aligned with learning.
I believe that teaching and learning are inseparably connected, that learning occurs throughout the continuum of life in one way or another and that learning can either be formal or informal. I believe that nurses and, ultimately, humans should seek life-long learning. I know that I consistently learn from the students I am privileged to teach. I didn't think that I would learn so much as I started nursing education. I naively thought I would teach and they would learn, but I have found that they have taught me a great deal about human interaction, about my own values and about the axiological approach to living what one teaches.
I most closely identify with the cognitive development learning theories especially when placed in sociocultural and historical contexts. I believe that when students hear nursing stories or scenarios and they are able to apply them to their clinical experiences, that learning is very rich. I support the idea that learning occurs best when the student is prepared and comes to class 1) having completed assigned learning activities and 2) with an attitude of active participation. I know that assumption does not always happen and I would rather have a student come to learn without having prepared than not come at all. My personal axiom is that "some is better than none", some preparation is better than no preparation, some class is better than no class and some learning that day is better than no learning.
I am committed to helping students learn to think critically, to reason and make decisions, as well as, learn to write. I believe that verbalizing thought processes helps to solidify the decision-making processes required in the educational and clinical arenas. Formal and informal writing blends many senses and avails us of the opportunity to organize those thought processes and synthesize new ones.
My belief is that the teacher's preparations and actions should promote an environment, climate and structure that are conducive to learning; that mutual feelings of respect, excellence, accountability, and integrity are optimal; and that the teacher orchestrates the learning that should occur and the manner or method in which the content is presented. The student is accountable and responsible for their actions, how they receive or handle the teaching environment, how they participate in the learning, how they obtain the information and what they do with the information they obtain.
One of my personal joys in nursing education is when the student experiences the "aha" moment and clarity of a concept or idea pervades their countenance. When I need rejuvenation as to why I have chosen nursing education, I can look back at an instance where a student experienced success in their learning by either applying some knowledge not previously known in the clinical area or by hard work which yields a great test grade or by succeeding in the simulation lab and those memories inspire me to continue on the great work that is "nursing education".
Courses and Sections
- NURS-2101 (Pathophysiology & Pharm I)
- NURS-3201 (Health Care of the Client I)
- NURS-3303 (Competency-Based Clinical Perf)