Quality and Safety Education for Nurses Learning Modules: Helping Teachers Teach

Web-based learning module series provides background, ideas and resources to teach nursing students quality and safety competencies needed in changing health care system.

The nation’s health care system is undergoing rapid and fundamental change, thanks to developments such as passage of the Affordable Care Act, cutting-edge health information technology systems, new kinds of health care delivery systems, and the aging population.

To prepare nurses and other health professionals to perform in this brave new health care world, education must change too, experts say.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is working to ensure that health care professionals provide the highest quality care in a changing system, and the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses program (QSEN) is a key part of that effort. QSEN leaders and experts have created a series of brief but comprehensive learning modules to help nurse faculty teach the knowledge, skills and attitudes that nursing students need to master the QSEN competencies.

The goals of the QSEN program dovetail with recommendations from a groundbreaking report released by the Institute of Medicine last year that calls for a radical transformation of nursing education and practice, and nurses role in health care and in society. The report, called The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, recommends transforming nurse education so that there will be enough nurses prepared to meet the more complex needs of an aging population that is living longer and often sicker. “Patient needs have become more complicated, and nurses need to attain requisite competencies to deliver high-quality care,” a brief summarizing the report states.

Developed and edited by Pamela Ironside, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., associate professor and director of the Center for Nursing Education Research at Indiana University, the QSEN learning modules address a variety of topics, from “cognitive stacking” to informatics to managing curricular change. Some focus on the “mindfulness” nurses need to provide quality care. A module on cognitive stacking provides strategies to teach students how to organize and prioritize existing and incoming information in health care settings. Another module explains how to use narrative and reflective pedagogies to help nurses improve their ability to always be “present” with patients, families and other members of the health care team.

“We want nurses to take a minute before they go into a patient’s room so that they can really listen to what that patient has to say,” Ironside said. “Nursing is complex work and we can get so swept up in trying to accomplish all our tasks that we don’t listen carefully to our patients. And that’s how errors occur.”

The learning modules are designed to be used by faculty teaching in all pre-licensure programs. Faculty can choose which modules to use and when to use them based on their needs and those of their students.

“In developing these modules, we were thinking about how nurses improve quality of care, and that doesn’t necessarily mean teaching more content,” Ironside said. “It’s about teaching differently and pushing the envelope on how we think about quality and safety and meeting patients’ needs. The question is, ‘How can we persistently improve our teaching practice just as we do our clinical practice?’”

Each module takes less than an hour to complete, and several last 30 minutes or less. Ten are currently posted on the QSEN web site, and Ironside predicts that the full set of 18 will be posted this fall. Additional modules will be previewed this spring at the QSEN National Forum in Milwaukee, Wisc. Called Charting the Course, the forum will be held from May 31 to June 2.

The first 10 learning modules are available now in the Faculty Resources section of the QSEN website.

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