For almost two decades, in effort to evaluate (and therefore strengthen programming) as well as support accreditation, Skyfactor Benchworks in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) created assessments to measure the effectiveness of certain program elements from the student perspective.1
The findings from this assessment allowed for an exploration of how nursing programs influence and contribute to learning outcomes related to professional values, core competencies, technical skills, core knowledge, and role development.
In response to demonstrating accountability in areas such as advocacy for vulnerable patients, fairness in the delivery of care, honoring the rights of patients, and delivering culturally competent care, at least 75% of the students reported this as being taught at “moderate” or “large” extent.2
At least 67% of students indicated the nursing program taught them to apply research-based knowledge as a basis for practice, to assist patients in understanding/interpreting the meaning of health information as well as correctly evaluating a patient’s ability to assume the responsibility of self-care. 60% of students reported that the program taught them to make effective presentations.
80% of students indicated they gained technical skills related to assessing vital signs and applying infection control measures from the nursing program. Approximately 75% reported being taught skills related to providing pain reduction measures and medication administration by all routes. Related to those, 60% and approximately 67% of students indicated being taught to manage wounds and provide emotional support in preparation for therapeutic procedures, respectively.
Respondents were divided into groups by previous healthcare experience before entering the nursing program: less than one year, 1-4 years, more than 4 years. When analyzing responses, the differences in professional value and core competencies were statistically significant but small. The biggest difference was in technical skills with respondents entering the nursing program with less than four years of healthcare experience being more likely than other respondents to indicate that the nursing program taught them technical skills such as assessing vital signs and applying infection control measures. There are also significant and important differences among degree programs as it relates to learning outcomes. In a comparison of BSN, RN, and Accelerated programs, respondents from the Accelerated program were far less likely to indicate being taught learning outcomes related to professional values, core competencies, and technical skills than respondents completing BSN and RN relationships. To drill down further, while the percentages of BSN and RN completion respondents indicated their program had taught them learning outcomes related to professional values and core competencies, RN completion respondents were significantly less likely than BSN respondents to report their program had taught them to assess vital signs, apply infection control measures, provide pain medication measures, and administer medications by all routes.
At least 65% of students reported that the nursing program taught them to apply an ethical, decision-making framework to clinical situations and to assess predictive factors that influence the health of patients; and 60% reported being taught to use appropriate technologies to assess patients, communicate with healthcare professionals to deliver high-quality patient care, and understand the effects of health policies on diverse populations (with an understanding of the global healthcare environment).
The majority of respondents reported that they were taught the idea of lifelong learning in support of excellence in nursing practice. More than 60% indicated they were taught to incorporate nursing standards into practice, integrate theory to develop a foundation for practice, and delegate nursing care while retaining accountability.
As was the case of technical skills, previous healthcare experience impacted the degree to which students indicated the nursing program taught key core knowledge and role development learning outcomes. Students with four or more years of previous healthcare experience were more likely to report on being largely taught learning outcomes outside of technical skills to a large degree such as: understanding the effects of healthcare policies on diverse populations (73%), assisting patients to achieve a peaceful end of life (71%), understanding how healthcare delivery systems are organized and the global healthcare environment, and incorporate knowledge of cost factors when delivering care. Along with reporting a higher value on life-long learning, respondents indicated being taught to integrate theories and concepts from liberal education into nursing practice and delegating nursing care while retaining accountability.
There were also notable differences between degree programs as it related to learning outcomes with significantly fewer respondents from Accelerated nursing programs indicating that they were taught learning outcomes related to core knowledge than BSN and RN completion respondents.
Overall, the majority of student respondents indicated the nursing program (regardless of program or previous healthcare experience) had taught them to achieve a variety of key learning outcomes related to professional values, core competencies, and technical skills.
1. Skyfactor Benchmarks, in partnership with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), created the Nursing Education Assessments to measure the effectiveness of programs from the student’s perspective. During the 2013-2014 academic year, 24,793 students participated in the undergraduate assessment.
2. All percentages reported here indicate responses of “moderate” and “large” extent.