Nursing, the next generation

Nursing, the next generation

College of Nursing changes its curriculum to meet changing health-care demands

By Tracy Brown Wright

UF nursing students work with teen mothers and their children at the Loften Center./Photo by Jesse S. Jones

College of Nursing student Candace Kuphal plays with a toddler boy at a day care center — the only one in Gainesville housed in a high school. The Loften Center is a magnet high school and home to ACCEPT, a program for teens who are pregnant or already have children.

After Kuphal and fellow B.S.N. students work with these children, conducting assessment screenings and engaging in constructive play, they walk over to the other side of the school to talk to the moms. They then assess the physiological and mental health issues these young mothers may be facing.

This semester, new UF nursing students are spending more time than ever before in situations like these. It’s all part of a new way the UF College of Nursing is educating the next generation of nurses. The college has revised its curriculum for B.S.N. students to incorporate more clinical learning at sites such as the Loften Center.

“We recognized that health care is increasingly occurring in so many sites outside of the traditional hospital, and those types of experiences would benefit our students as health care continues to evolve,” said Jodi Irving, M.S.N., A.R.N.P., an assistant professor of nursing and a member of the curriculum revision team.

The revision came after much work and discussion by the College’s faculty and was based on the recommendations of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“Our curriculum will be strengthened by this update,” said Sharon Bradley, D.N.P., R.N., interim associate dean for academic and student affairs and curriculum coordinator during the B.S.N. curriculum revision. “Our faculty studied and applied recommendations from the AACN, the Institute on Medicine and the Joint Commission, among others, to create a curriculum that responds to our future health-care environment.”

While the previous curriculum focused more on specialty tracks as the basis for classes, the new curriculum focuses on the patient across the lifespan and incorporates more types of clinical sites outside of the traditional acute care setting.

In addition, the curriculum emphasizes areas of growing importance in health care: genetics, informatics, evidence-based practice and interprofessionalism. To gain a better understanding of how health care professions work together, students particpate in the Interdisciplinary Family Health program. Students from different health-related colleges at UF form teams of three and are assigned a client in the community to assess their health care needs.

The nursing curriculum has always emphasized health promotion and prevention, a major tenet of the profession. But the new curriculum emphasizes health promotion from the very beginning of nursing education. This gives students a full-circle experience, showing them how early health promotion efforts can help prevent the high numbers of patients with complex illnesses they see at the end of their curriculum.

“In Florida, especially as the baby boomers age, our future nurses will see an increasingly older adult population with greater diversity and cultural variation,” Bradley said. “This type of curriculum helps to better prepare them for that future.”

Faculty members and students have responded positively to the overall curriculum change, Bradley said.

“We have had positive feedback from both faculty and students thus far,” Bradley said. “Change is never easy but often necessary. But if you have a high caliber of students and faculty, you always get better than what you expected.”