“Evolution” – A Missing Essential

For several years now, I have taught a course titled “Evolution of Nursing as a Discipline and Practice” at Florida Atlantic University. The course is designed in the doctoral curriculum as an entry-level course to the PhD program, but each year that evolutionI have had the pleasure of teaching this course I become more and more convinced that this is a tragically missing component of our nursing programs at every level.  The course description is simple and direct:

Analyzes the historical development of nursing as a discipline of knowledge and a professional practice. Privileges and responsibilities of the nurse as scholar, practitioner, healer and educator are examined.  

When you get to the actual content of the course, the possibilities are immense, and provide a new understanding of our discipline and our practice that students consistently end up wondering: “why have I not learned about this before?”

Sadly, along with the turn toward preparation for NCLEX and specialty certifications, and at the doctoral level a focus on research skills, nursing faculty have all too often plunged ahead, teaching both explicitly and implictly, content that is void of any context, using a “banking” method of education that merely shoves facts into minds that may or may not be receptive, minds and hearts that are lacking the passion to use what they know to act in ways that contribute to the future evolution of the discipline.  To be clear, much of the content and the facts that we include in nursing curricula are vital, many times even interesting!  But without appreciation of the social, historical and cultural contexts of our discipline, we run the risk of preparing graduates who lack appreciation of the significance of their role in developing nursing as a discipline, and lost in a wilderness without a sense of meaning and direction for the future.

Here is a sample of the topics we have addressed in the “Evolution” course:

  • History of Nursing’s Patterns of Knowing
  • Evolution of Nursing’s Foundational Ideas
  • Origins of Nurses as Healers
  • Evolution of Nursing’s Role in Social Justice
  • Gender Relations in Nursing and Medicine
  • Dynamics of Power and Control: Evolution of nursing’s legal and social standing
  • Race and Race Relations in Nursing
  • Nursing and the Military
  • Nursing and the Media
  • Evolution of Nursing Research Methodologies

This exact course, or the topics we cover, illustrate what can be endless possibilities. I urge those who read this blog to seriously consider the consequences of ignoring these ideas in the nursing curriculum, and to re-claim the faculty responsibility to create a curriculum and a program that teaches not only facts, but values, appreciation for the past, and visions for the future.

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