The roles of nurses have been actively expanding over the past decades. Underpinning knowledge has played a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of services offered by nurses. The existence of an objective learning environment in the field of nursing will improve the quality of care given to patients. Nursing training should primarily focus on the individual learning style of nurses. Recognizing individual learning styles is essential in integrating theory and practice. Faculty members in charge of training nurses must be aware of factors that may impede learning and create a positive learning environment. This paper will look at the different learning styles nurses prefer, and emphasize how recognition of individual learning styles is crucial for active learning. This article will also explore a variety of learning concepts, approaches, and theories that are vital to building and managing an active learning environment.
Recognizing Nurses’ Learning Styles and Integrating Theory into Practice
A learning style inventory was completed by 10 nursing students. 4 students identified themselves as kinesthetic learners, 3 were auditory learners, and the rest visual learners. They all agreed that the learning environment had an impact on their learning experience.
As nursing practitioners, the ability to put knowledge into practice is fundamental. Different nurses exhibit diverse qualities and experience during their learning. As such, faculty members responsible for their training need to recognize these different learning preferences and design specific training courses that accommodate each. Each individual usually has a particular learning style, which helps him or her learn efficiently. Among the existing learning theories, one of the most widely used is the visual auditory kinesthetic (VAK) learning style model. The VAK learning style model categorizes learners into visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. People with a visual learning style learn primarily through what they see, and learn best from visual displays. People with an auditory learning style learn best through listening to speech, lectures, and audio sessions. They prefer hearing the explanation of something rather than read about it. People with kinesthetic learning learn better through carrying out physical activities, rather than watching a demonstration or sitting in a lecture.
Currently, most nursing education training models focus on traditional approaches. These approaches put into a practice learning techniques whereby a staff member teaches a group of nursing students by sharing his/her knowledge and expertise. Despite nursing staff having diverse learning styles, many of these traditional approaches give little considerations to the dynamics of a learning group. Previous experiences, individual learning styles, and personality types are usually overlooked in the learning process. A combination of a person’s learning needs with the nursing practice requirements is vital in forming an active learning environment and technique. Previous research on effective training techniques has shown that active learning is more effective than passive learning (Beck et al., 2002). As such, training models need to be problem-centered, work-based and incorporate supervision and mentorship.
Coffey (2004) in analyzing answers given by nurses on the type of training they prefer, observed that most prefer an on the job training technique, with supervisors and mentors actively involved. It is only in a clinical environment that nursing students can put theory into practice and hone their skills of nurturing patients. Another important training tool when integrating theory and practice is a reflection. A reflective approach to nursing students will enable them to develop their personal practices and knowledge as they will be able to reflect on clinical situations. Reflective practice will thus offer the students a chance to review decisions they made and evaluate what they learned in the past, and this will consequently positively impact their future practices. Reflection is crucial in enabling experimental learning. Nurses must be able to reflect critically on their practice and consequences of their interventions for them to successfully implement theory into practice. In some instances, some nurses will find reflection difficult, due to self-awareness, and in this cases, they will need to reflect on an analytical manner.
The ability of the selected staff members to learn and later apply what they learned into practice is fundamental in delivering top notch nursing care. Having a competent and skilled nursing staff will ensure effectiveness in recognizing patients’ complications, responding to them appropriately and will also ensure patient safety. As such, building and managing an effective learning environment for nursing staff is dependent on knowledge of and application of different learning theories and concepts. A study by Saarikoski and Leino-Kilpi (2002) explains that a one-on-one training technique is the most effective learning style, with most nursing students having preference to this technique of learning. Work based mentorship and supervision are substantial in creating an adaptive practice mode; that facilitates effective training. Through mentorship, the students can learn new skill, with the mentors having a chance to assess the staff. Supervision, on the other hand, ensures accountability and feedback in a supportive manner and environment.
The training should also focus on teaching the nursing staff to change their attitudes and behavior. Changes in attitude, behavior and other personal traits will have an effect on organizational and individual performance. The nursing staff should be educated on having self-empowerment and self-motivation. This will consequently reduce accidents caused by staff since the nurses will be applying the best theory based practices, and their performance standards will be improved. Individuals with improved self-confidence will inevitably enjoy working and will need less supervision. With less supervision, there is an indirect feeling of the organization having an investment in them and ultimately improve on their performance.
Failure of a nursing training program to meet the learning requirements of the staff has some negative consequences. The nursing workforce could be exposed to untrained staff that lacks sufficient skills to carry out their tasks competently. This would consequently affect the care given to patients. The nursing staff would not be sure of what is expected of them, and this will increase unsafe practices. In the end, ineffective learning will demoralize nursing staff who will be unable to carry out their tasks effectively.
To tackle this predicament and ensure effective learning, the training staff needs to use visual and creative teaching strategies that focus on a small group of learners. Techniques such as mentorship, supervised practice, problem-based learning, and evidence-based learning will lead to a highly competent workforce. Having a well designed and executed training program is expected to improve the nurse’s job performance. However, in many instances, practical training does not necessarily mean that performance will improve. Whenever training has been successful, a more competent workforce will be created, improving the clinical outcome and patient care.
Faculty staff responsible for training needs to understand the importance of applying the theoretical foundations of how people learn and perform in any clinical environment. Whenever the teaching methods direr from the learning methods, the nursing staff will fail to get a proper understanding of the nursing subject, and theory learnt won’t be put into practice.
Beck, A. et al. (2002). Communication Studies: The Essential Introduction. London: Routledge.
Coffey, A. (2004). Perceptions of training for care attendants employed in the care of older people. Journal of Nursing Management; 12: 322-328.
Saarikoski, M., Leino-Kilpi, H. (2002). The clinical learning environment and supervision by staff nurses: developing the instrument. International Journal of Nursing Studies; 39: 3, 259-267.