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A Paradigm Shift for Nurses and Nursing Education

By Anne Marie Jean-Baptiste, RN, CCRN, CEN, MS, MSN/Ed
Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing and Allied Health
University of the District of Columbia

Guyana Journal, February 2011

Dr. Maya Anjelou was one of the key speakers promoting health during the “NIH Summit: The Science of Eliminating Health Disparities” held Dec. 2008 at the Gaylord Convention Center, National Harbor, MD. that addressed various issues of the current health disparity crisis in the world. She took the stage and made a comparison between the work of a composer to that of the healthcare professionals, imbued with sagacity, saliency, and creativity.

Sagacity, (from the Latin: perceive keenly) is defined as being discerning, sound in judgment, and farsighted, with the ability to create. Healthcare workers have skillfully designed course of actions to help their patients reach their maximum point of functionality as members of their community. For this attribute to continue being relevant, it is necessary for an urgent shift of patterns to occur in the higher education system, consisting of displacing the learning approach of passive lecturing and rote memorization of subjects, in favor of intellectual engagement and the cultivation of critical thinking. These obsolete practices of passive lecturing and rote memorization of subjects in the higher education system do not foster the necessary learning skills that students need in order to fully utilize their reasoning abilities through the complex life issues and become wise and knowledgeable healthcare professionals.

Educators are urged to encourage students to develop and integrate ideas with subjects, as well as to overcome the egocentric human inclination to perpetuate the status quo. They must also turn to learning approaches that propel students to question, explore, and/or authenticate ideas, beliefs, and values in order to acquire the ability to separate assumptions from truth and the courage to denounce false conjectures when discovered. After analyzing, comparing, substantiating, and evaluating their own ideas for fitness, relevance, adaptation, and appropriateness, students should be encouraged to back up them up with facts.

Saliency is defined as being prominent and significant, as well as conspicuous. The nursing profession, forming the largest cohort of the healthcare workforce, is the critical mass that embodies the heartbeat of what healthcare system strives to achieve: service to mankind for restoration, improvement, and/or acceptance of some degree of societal functioning. This Robustness is yet to be translated into the power to influence and control decisions made for the patient and the advancement of the profession, in lieu of accommodating. This can only be done by developing esprit de corps, removing all forms of compartmentalization, developing understanding, compensating for the differences, and ultimately rallying to acquire what is needed rather than waiting for what is given. The culture of togetherness has to be initiated by educational leaders at the academic level by placing emphasis on team work rather than individual work in order to foster the student's understanding of the importance of group dynamics and to encourage them to begin to explore the positive effects of critical mass. Educators must encourage students to participate and make their voices heard at gatherings where decisions are made regarding healthcare policies and practices, as a manner of promoting the extension of their nursing role beyond the hospitals' walls.

Creativity refers to the ability of being able to produce original work or ideas in a field. It is, along with insight and imagination, a component of higher states of mind and a by-product of sagacity and saliency. The world is becoming a global and multicultural village that the healthcare system intends to reach by using cutting edge technology.

The educational system is joining in this effort when it strives to prepare culturally competent professionals and integrating informatics in their course curricula. To be successful, the drive to compose should be compounded with self-sufficiency and freedom, to give full rein to intuition and impulse while exploring and applying elements from a repertoire of knowledge. This will enable healthcare professionals to meet patients' needs in a variety of settings (hospital, clinics, nursing homes, community settings, as well as home) and contexts (individual and groups) while preserving one's uniqueness, improving the quality of care, and maintaining community relations. Educators should neither refrain from, nor limit creativity and must be less controlling while promoting student self-directedness. They should take advantage of the abundance of available information and adopt horizontal styles of learning approaches that are more congruent with this epoch.

Finally, educators must concur with the paradigm shift of function from sage to guide, from teachers to learning facilitators. In fact, the uncertainty of destination will force students to privately confront their weaknesses and oblige them to muster the courage to capitalize on their strengths, and urge them to become resourceful and versed in subjects of their exploration.

The above rudimentary list of components for accomplishing the role of composer can only serve as a primer for nurses and other healthcare professionals, to begin to muster enough chutzpah to advance their professions in the right direction. It is the time to move forward. Start now, for now is the time for educators to substitute the knowledge dissemination approach with adoption of Socratic questioning as a mean to verify the breadth, depth, accuracy and relevance of the student's learning, by offering them a platform to record or present the testimony of their learning. Taste and see, for as far as West is from East, and North is from South, there lies the measure of the human capacity to learn and apply knowledge. As a man thinks so he is.

Holmes, D. & Gastaldo, D.(2002). Nursing as a means of governmentality. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 38(6), 557-565.

Johnson, M. B. & Webber.B.P. (2010). Theory and Reasoning in Nursing.(3rd ed). Philadelphia. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

Webster's New World Dictionary. (2008) New Comprehensive International Dictionary. Ohio: Wiley Publishing.

Anne Marie Jean-Baptiste is Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing and Allied Health, University of the District of Columbia