Curriculum in Nursing Paper Example


Clinical environment is rapidly changing in accordance with the changes in community and environment, while demanding new setting, technologies, and roles, which the staff nurses have to practice. The ever developing clinical environment requires new teaching and learning approaches, so that students could satisfy the current and future medical needs of a community after graduation. Hereby, the development of curriculum in nursing education is a process that intends to guarantee an effective evidence- and context-relevant education. The paper discusses and analyses various aspects of development and establishment of the curriculum in nursing schools to satisfy the societal needs, as well as impact current student attributes and needs on nursing curricula.


Definition and Characteristics of Curriculum in Nursing and of its Stakeholders

In accordance with the changing social forces, there are different definitions and ways of understanding the curriculum. While some authors use a new broad perspective describing curriculum as “a desired goal or set of values that can be activated through a development process, culminating in experiences for learners”, many other still view it as “written document,” “planned experiences,” or “planned learning outcomes” (Iwasiw, Goldberg, & Andrusyszyn, 2009, pp.4-5). The summarization of all these conceptions has been done by Keating (2011), who defined the curriculum as “the formal plan of study that provides the philosophical underpinnings, goals, and guidelines for delivery a specific educational program”. (p. 1).

Based on the definition, one can distinguish the main components of the curriculum. Thus, the curriculum in nursing includes core philosophical underpinnings, objectives and goals that are based on precise research about current societal and students’ needs, educational program that contains different learning and philosophical strategies, estimation criteria, and culture of education that can satisfy both students’ and teachers’ expectations, and delivery methods. This framework aligns with considering curriculum as a strategy, experiences, means, process, as well as a plan.

The curriculum development is a creative process that requires imaginative thinking, openness to new ideas, and cooperation of all the stakeholders. Since students refer to the main curriculum stakeholders, the nursing curriculum has to be responsive to student interests (Keating, 2011). Other stakeholders for developing a curriculum in nursing are faculty, educators, administrators, and consumers of nursing services.

Relationships between Institutional Program Mission and Vision Statements and Terminal Objectives of the Nursing Curriculum

In order to be effective and reflect on the institutional mission, the curriculum has to be developed based on information about the nursing practice, the needs of patients, the context, in which the graduates will provide nursing services, as well as the needs of students. The gathered information has to be processed and conveyed into terminal objectives and curriculum plan in the best way possible. Outside of the formally developed plan, the nursing curriculum has to involve informal curriculum that includes different activities, which the stakeholders experience during the learning process. Activities of informal curriculum can motivate students and reinforce the formal learning process.

The terminal curriculum objectives must be consistent with institutional program mission and vision. The terminal aim of education programs in a nursing school, similar to other schools, is graduation with the perspective of meeting current and future requirements of the medical industry and community as a whole (Jamshidi, 2012, p. 3335). According to the view of most researchers, the modern nursing curriculum has to be “evidence-informed, context-relevant, and unified” (Keating, 2011, p. 8).

Its mission is to create opportunities that will allow students to gain professional knowledge and skills, so that after graduation they could provide competent nursing services, contributing to positive change in the healthcare environment and quality life of society (Billings & Halstead, 2010). Thus, the evidence-informed, context-relevant, and unified curriculum is based on evidence about requirements of the society and students and is responsive to the environment, in which nursing services are offered.

Analysis of Philosophical Approaches and Learning Theories Used in Nursing Curriculum

Among the knowledge and skills that the graduated nurses are awaited to possess are the general nursing theory, psychosocial and biological sciences, patient care skills, as well as critical thinking and information processing abilities. The knowledge that students have to obtain is too extensive and vast. Therefore, instead of trying to memorize all the facts, the objective of the institutional/college program is to teach students how to analyze and synthesize information. Hereby, clustering and presenting learning content in an effective way is crucial for nursing practice. The nursing courses are usually taught in four blocks, thus allowing students to spare time for practice and critical reflection (Yildirim, ?zkahraman, & Karabudak, 2011).

Since “knowledge and skill in themselves do not guarantee understanding,” a teacher has to play different roles in order to assist nursing students in the thorough learning program (Yildirim et al., 2011, p.177). Hereby, the special attention should be given to the underlying processes of students’ transformation, reflection, as well as dialogue that occur between students and a teacher (Keating, 2011, p. 5). Overall, the educator in nursing is viewed as a mentor and guide, who through the methods of instruction and discussion, as well as coaching, helps the students to understand theory and practice of the study, provides informative feedback and invites to self-assessment.

Many researchers underline the crucial importance of developing critical thinking abilities in students from the nursing course, as critical thinking in nursing is “an essential component of professional accountability and quality nursing care” (Yildirim et al., 2011, p.175). Critical thinking contributes to successful analysis, information research, logical reasoning, prediction, and transformation of knowledge. Educators have to incorporate different critical thinking strategies that will enable students to become active participants in the learning process and foster interaction between students, as well as between students and their teacher.

Educators have to help nursing students to develop and enhance their critical thinking skills within standard academic disciplines or as isolated disciplines. Thanks to critical-thinking abilities, medical workers can make the decisions that could be best for their patients. Thus, the importance of teaching critical-thinking skills within the nursing curricula cannot be underestimated.

Hereby, a good strategy for developing the nursing students’ critical-thinking skills is finding, analyzing, and critiquing articles, pertinent to a certain medical topic (Stichler, Fields, Kim, & Brown, 2011). Additionally, expanding researching, reading, and learning beyond the lecture materials results is advancing the knowledge and skills of students. Popular methods of study include small group and class discussions, use of case studies and nursing scenarios (Yildirim et al., 2011). Since collaboration is an inevitable part of a good nursing performance, the teamwork has to be involved in the nursing curriculum, as well.

The context-relevant curriculum has to help students to recognize the connections between the subject of their study and the real life. Very often, the study can be detached from the real life, which is inadmissible in nursing. Moreover, for being evidence- and context-relevant, the curriculum has to not just react to current circumstances but also meet the future requirements of the nursing industry.

Since it is necessary for medical institutions to analyze previous experience and new information, the nurses should have a developed intuition and creativity, as well as having a developed knowledge base. Hereby, the evidence-based practice, which is a form of decision-making and serving clients based on the best possible choices made based on a current issue, is recognised as “the gold standard for the provision of safe and compassionate healthcare to patients” (Stichler et al., 2011, p. 93).

Although prior to 2000, the evidence-based skills, such as developing a clinical question and gathering evidence that answers it, were not traditionally included in the academic nursing curriculum, today the nursing education should focus on translation of the nursing research to practise. Since the nursing faculty forms the future nursing practice through the education process, it is important that the educators use evidence-based approach across the nursing curriculum as the core pedagogical framework for working with students. Continuously, in contrast to previous traditional approaches, whereby students were often unable to integrate theory into practice and answer the urgent clinical issues, using evidence-based approach enables graduates to provide an appropriate evidence-based care to their clients. Thus, today, the information and theory literacy should be integrated into the curriculum in combination with evidence-search tasks.

Strands and Threads in a Curriculum

The nursing practice is currently in the stage of transforming into a new integrative industry with improved concepts of safety and quality, application of the newest technology and evidence-based practice. These factors should be taken into consideration, while developing the nursing curriculum. However, according to Stichler et al. (2011), educating and providing the future nurse with appropriate skills is a current “daunting challenge” for learning institutions and educators (Stichler et al., 2011, p.92).

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The core issues associated with providing nursing education include financial and educational burdens associated with the lack of educators with a doctorate degree, as well as a poor structural organization of institutions and programs. Thus, in the USA, out of nearly three million nurses, only 1% of them have a doctorate degree. The reason for it is that most nurses prefer practicing as soon as possible, rather than finishing the degree because nurse practitioners, who have received a master’s degree and appropriate training are usually paid more than professors after ten years of study (Herzog, 2014).

Additionally, students do not strive for a doctorate degree, as they consider it to be troublesome with financial obligations and job complications. As a result, according to the statistics, nearly 75 thousand of applicants were not enrolled at the schools because of the lack of qualified professors. Therefore, the new programs have to encourage nurses to further studying and earning the graduate degree in order to teach the new generation of qualified nurses.

Both teachers and students face many challenges on the way to the effective curriculum that could reflect institutional mission, vision, and objectives. From the standpoint of students, there are many educational challenges in the nursing curriculum, including gaps of the traditional clinical training, lack of community between faculty members and nursing staff, as well as crowded hospitals. From the standpoint of educators, apart of inconsistency between practical and theoretical part of education, there are a lot of physical factors that have contributed to the strands and threads in the nursing curriculum; in particular, the lack of space in nursing schools to accommodate the arrival of the demanded number of students. Additional problem is that the recruitment of nurses does not correspond to the principle of diversity (Herzog, 2014). Hereby, after graduation, men comprise just 10% of the workforce.

Increasing the amount of students in schools through recruitment and improvement of educational capacity, as well as the attraction of professional educators with professor degree is just the beginning of the way to transforming the nursing practice. In order to understand the real requirements of the nursing industry, and reflect through the nursing curriculum in the long run, new effective strategies have to be implemented. Although there are many efforts to increase nursing enrollments in schools, it is evident that the traditional strategies of enrollment cannot adequately address and resolve the whole scope of the problem. Therefore, to make up with the issue, the universities can, for example, apart from the traditional on-site nursing curriculum develop their online programs of study for nurses. Hereby, online schools are viewed not as secondary to traditional schools but rather as alternative ones.

For increasing a number of students and changing the negative students’ perceptions concerning nursing education, the image of nursing school should be enhanced. Hereby, administrators and educators should cooperate together for developing attractive nursing curriculum and, thus, influencing students’ perceptions. Besides, developing partnership relationships between nursing schools and nursing industry is essential. The reform should be also directed on diversity, so that the nursing workforce could reflect the general societal needs.


Because staff nurses largely constitute health system and have an immense effect on community health, an effective nursing education is a crucial predeterminer for ensuring the community is healthy. The nursing curriculum has to include different courses for developing all the necessary professional skills and abilities. Besides, the nursing curriculum has to contribute to the development and enhancement of students’ critical-thinking skills, so that they could maintain and develop their competencies at the workplace. For setting up an effective curriculum in nursing, educators have to overcome many obstacles and threats. Overall, the curriculum development is an ongoing process that has to adjust to the new determinant of quality and effective medical service.

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