The major objective of nursing professionals is to take care of patients in any healthcare-related situations. In addition, the caring practice requires nurses to be able to educate their patients on how to prevent certain illnesses and how to look after the basic wounds. Nevertheless, the knowledge that nurse gain at schools turns out to be far from enough for practicing in the working environments. Therefore, the objective of the following paper is to look whether the gap between the nursing education and practice really exists, as well as to discuss the major issues and to provide certain suggestions for improvements.
The purpose of education is to teach nurses specific knowledge regarding their profession, but its major objectives also include acquiring the skills about the wisdom, judgment, and critical thinking (Ajani & Moez, 2011).
There is a significant gap between education and practice. Nurses might have a good educational background and might even be able to discuss pathophysiology, write the best care plans, speak about a treatment rationale, but in actual practice, they usually cannot apply those skills and knowledge. From the other side, those nursing professionals, who have demonstrated high performance and skills during their practice, might find it difficult to put it into educational programs in order to pass their knowledge to others. It is another issue that makes the gap between education and practice even deeper.
The literature review that has been presented in the article by Khairulnissa Ajani and Salima Moez has mentioned both positive and negative effects, as the status and the image of nursing professionals are directly affected. The gap between education and practice has a direct effect on the dignity of work and motivation. If nurses do not have enough theoretical skills but demonstrate good practice, they might be not allowed to conduct important practice within hospital facilities. On the other hand, if they have only the theory and do not possess proper practical skills, their credibility might be questioned. This situation puts a nurse into a dilemma, as they have to possess both the knowledge and skills, and it is almost impossible for those who have just graduated from educational facilities, or for those who have started to work after school and have not got further education.
Khairulnissa Ajani and Salima Moez identify several factors that contribute to the gap promotion; they include the lack of governmental support, lack of the governing bodies support in the area of nursing, poor apprenticeship model, not enough nursing research, students are treated as service providers, not enough practice within clinical facilities during educational curriculum, not enough opportunities related to further education. International literature gives a better overview of the education and practice gap in nursing as the last has been causing many controversies and debates. Student nurses are the first that experience the negative impact of the education and practice gap as they find themselves torn between requests that come from the practicing nurses and their educators. It is normal that they cannot know the answer to all the questions, but when student nurses are facing real situations, they have to apply their theoretical knowledge. Thus, practitioners, teachers, and learners from worldwide have noticed the gap long ago. Nevertheless, the effort that has been made to eliminate the problems resulted even in a bigger gap; students efficient on paper cannot be that skillful in practice and vice versa. The major reasons for such a situation are the principles of the today’s education, which are not fully aligned with the existing rules in the practice facilities. This fact not only causes frustration among all healthcare industry workers but also makes some students drop out from their studies as they cannot establish the link between what they learn and what they will need in actual fact (Ajani & Moez, 2011).
Some specific case studies demonstrate that there are other issues, which can bring negative consequences regarding the situation with the education and practice gap. A good example can be the article presented by Laura Eggertson. Eggertson talks about Dylan Brown, who graduated in 2012 from St. Francis Xavier’s school of nursing; the man was keen to start using his knowledge in practice. He had been taught about the possibility to use warmers in the operating room but was forbidden to do it by hospitals professionals. In fact, they did not give him much explanation, but treated him as a student or a very inexperienced nurse, whose knowledge should not be trusted. The article speaks about 15 nurse professionals, who have mentioned a similar barrier, but the issue is much bigger. The matter is that practice is lagging because it does not want to apply any latest nursing research practices; this fact makes the gap even bigger. It is a real issue as employees of medical facilities are not open for change and, every time they are being challenged by the newcomers to use modern approach, they do not only ignore those requests but also discourage the participants to voice any other thoughts (Eggertson, 2013).
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The government of the United States has looked into possibility to approach the situation by implementing certain reforms, such as the program introduced by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), according to which nursing professionals are provided with the access to electronic health records. Such approach has allowed nurses that are already practicing to study more and get additional theoretical knowledge. Nevertheless, it is not enough as the educational system is the root cause of the problem and it can be changed only if all key players such as educators, healthcare workers, and healthcare organization, as well as the government, are involved in the improvement process (Nibert & Troseth, 2011).
It is clear that curriculum in the educational facilities should be improved in order to integrate more programs that would be relevant to the clinical environments. In the matter of fact, this approach not only would help get practical skills but also would be a useful tool to reduce anxiety among student nurses. It is the key factor that might hinder them from applying theoretical skills in practice. Other researchers suggest that the problem-based and self-directed approaches should be put in place within educational systems, so it would help students improve their critical thinking skills and allow them to use specific case-based scenarios that are close to practical tasks. Other potential solutions to improvements include role playing, effective resources reorganization, and adjustment of the training programs. Another important issue that has to be mentioned is the need of providing education that includes deep specialization of general information. The answer to that question can be that a nurse should both have a general knowledge and work in certain areas of expertise (Eggertson, 2013).
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It is about the knowledge sharing and development of the tools, which can help summarize the relevant data received from the practice facilities and maximize this information within the educational systems. It is obvious that there are not enough clinicians, who share their knowledge at school; and it can become a potential solution to the existing problems. Moreover, special motivational programs, as well as encouragement practices, should be put in place within medical facilities. Once nurses get practical knowledge, they might tend to forget about the need to continue their education through reading professional journals. It is associated with the inconsistencies related to the progress in education and lagging in practice; the issue has been discussed above. Moreover, nurses should learn the teamwork from the day they start their education. It is very important as being a part of interprofessional teams helps develop communication and collaboration, as well as learn new skills from peers and other healthcare professionals. The majority of modern educational programs do not include even basic teamwork activities, which should be definitely improved.
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In addition, it is important to talk about the need for higher education for nurses. The key point is that the nursing curricula must be improved and become the main instrument that would help train young professionals to be more skillful while meeting the needs of the patients. Once the higher education is put in place and improved, nursing professionals would be able to become primary care providers and key players in the healthcare industry. With the constant increase in the pace of the population aging, nurses are to be asked to provide support to patients with different chronic illnesses and prevent the disease progression (Garner, 2013).
In conclusion, it is important to mention that the good news is that the gap between education and practice is not unnoticed; it is targeted by multiple governmental and private programs that aim to reduce it. An example can be the evidence-based practice (EBP) that fosters educational research (Conner, 2014). The following paper has demonstrated that there is a gap between education and practice; moreover, it comes with multiple issues, such as the inability of student nurses and practice nurses to change and improve. Thus, positive changes are to come.