Nursing Education in the United States

Nursing Education in the United States

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Nursing education is a field that combines nursing with the teaching of students of nursing and, for some, with the administration of educational programs.

A high proportion of the teachers in nursing education programs teach in clinical situations, in which students learn to care for patients and families in hospitals, at home, and in other situations. Universities or associations usually offer teaching by nurses in staff-development programs of hospitals and other health agencies and in continuing-education programs. The basic educational program for nurses in many countries is scientific and humanistic in content. All educational programs include experience with patients in hospitals, homes, or other settings.

In almost all countries with nursing education there are at least two kinds of programs – those leading to diplomas and those that train auxiliaries, though a large portion of auxiliaries in some countries are untrained.

The development of nursing education in any country is affected by the developments in general education. In the United States and some other countries, for example, high school graduation or its equivalent has for many years been a requirement for admission to schools preparing registered nurses. In the United States this is also a requirement for admission to practical nurse programs. In some countries fewer years of previous education are required.

Nursing education in the United States has undergone tremendous changes in recent years. In order to prepare nurses for beginning and advanced levels of practice, educational programs also have undergone tremendous changes. Many curricula are creative and interactive, rather than rigid and proscriptive. Education is more learner-focused than teacher-centered. Clinical experiences for students reflect a greater emphasis on community-based care, health promotion, disease prevention, family involvement, and self-care. And the integration of technology and the use of distance learning strategies are more evident in nursing education programs.

Nurse educators are realizing that there is an art and a science to teaching nursing – just as there is an art and a science to practicing nursing – and they are seeking preparation in curriculum development and evaluation, creative teaching/learning strategies, student and program evaluation, and other areas that complement their clinical specialization and expertise.

Post-basic programs for nurses with diplomas have been established in the United States and in many countries. Some programs offer courses in general education, as well as nursing courses, and some, in universities, may become programs leading to a bachelor’s degree. The purposes of such programs vary and include the preparation of teachers, supervisors, or administrators and of nurse specialists in various fields, including midwifery, public health, and teaching of auxiliaries. Some augment the education received in other programs. Enrollment is generally small in relation to the need for their graduates.

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