Nursing Education Isn't What It Used to Be!

Sep 28, 2012, 10:00 AM, Posted by

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Human Capital Blog is asking diverse experts: What is and isn’t working in health professions education today, and what changes are needed to prepare a high-functioning health and health care workforce that can meet the country’s current and emerging needs? Today’s post is by Kate Driscoll Malliarakis, PhD, CNP, MAC, assistant professor and program coordinator, Nursing Leadership and Management at the George Washington University School of Nursing. Malliarakis is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellow (ENF) and president-elect of the RWJF ENF Alumni Association.


Nursing has afforded me the opportunity to serve in numerous non-traditional positions. Now as an academic, I work to provide my students with a broad view of health care. Today, nurses enjoy a variety of educational opportunities that differ from the old one-size-fits-all approach. Thanks to technological advances in education, hybrid formats enable nurses to experience new educational opportunities through online course work and flexible, asynchronous learning.  

Online education encourages diversity as students hail from a variety of geographic locations and experiences. Unlike the standard classroom where a student can sit in the last row and not participate, online discussions demand the student’s involvement not only with the faculty but with each other. The result is a richer interaction and learning experience.

On an undergraduate level, student nurses combine online experiences with on-campus encounters. The adage “practice makes perfect “is enhanced through work in the simulation laboratory where current techniques are learned and practiced before and during the nurses’ clinical rotations. Learning to “do” the procedures on life-like mannequins reduces the anxiety of patient encounters for the novice nurse. 

Online courses enable these same students to stretch beyond their clinical development to broaden their critical skills and thinking.

On a graduate level, interprofessional collaboration affords nurses the opportunity to expand their knowledge base. At the George Washington University School of Nursing, graduate nurses take courses with students in other university schools. We collaborate with the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Services, the School of Business, and the School of Education. The perspectives provided to our students encourage them to think beyond their clinical comfort to develop a new appreciation for the totality of health care.  

It is this interprofessional collaboration that prepares our nurses to be leaders in the health care workforce. No one discipline can attend to the health care requirements of patients today and in the future. Our approach prepares nurses with the skills to participate in and lead this interprofessional effort.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.