Baccalaureate Nursing Students' Self-Assessment of Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes Toward Scholarly Writing

Tuesday, 31 October 2017: 8:00 AM

Teresa Shellenbarger, PhD
Department of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA, USA
Elizabeth A. Gazza, PhD
School of Nursing, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, USA
Diane F. Hunker, PhD, MBA
Department of Nursing, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Purpose: Communication is an essential component of baccalaureate nursing education and adequate writing skills are needed for graduates who are ready to deliver high quality, safe patient care and communicate effectively with the interprofessional healthcare team. Additionally, with the growth of technology and Internet use nurses are now able to freely communicate ideas with others regardless of geographic location. This global connection requires the use of clear and effective written communication skills to articulate messages appropriately. Students enter baccalaureate nursing programs with varying scholarly writing expertise. While nursing programs typically offer an array of learning activities or courses that are designed to advance student writing development, nurse educators have limited knowledge of how students perceive their writing or these activities (Gopee & Deane, 2013; Lavelle, Ball, & Maliszewski, 2013; Oermann, Leonardelli, Turner, Hawks, Derouin, & Hueckel, 2015). Faculty also have little evidence-based information to help them to design relevant and meaningful teaching-learning strategies that meet student learning needs and further enhance the scholarly writing of nursing students (Greenwood, Walkem, Smith, Shearer, & Stirling, 2014; Hunker, Gazza, & Shellenbarger, 2014). Nursing faculty are challenged to assist these students to acquire the essential knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward writing that will promote improvement of their communication. Given the paucity of research available about student writing development further research was needed. The purpose of this national descriptive study was to assess undergraduate prelicensure nursing students’ ability to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and attitudes related to scholarly writing.

Methods: After obtaining IRB approval an email invitation was sent to chief nursing program administrators of schools in the United States that were listed on the Discover Nursing website. Administrators were asked to distribute the invitation along with an electronic survey link to baccalaureate nursing students. Consenting students completed the electronic self-assessment of their use of writing knowledge, skills, and attitudes and an 11-item demographic questionnaire. The 125 participants represented ten different states. Respondents were mostly women (89.6%), young (mean age = 21), primarily Caucasian (72%) and were enrolled full time study (93.6%) in traditional programs delivered in person (88%). Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data with the SAS statistical program.

Results: Student self-assessment findings revealed high scores related to the use of references to adhere to ethical principles when writing, knowledge that writing is a process, and an understanding of the mechanics of writing. Students self-assessed their knowledge of what characterizes scholarly writers, creating abstracts or summaries of work, and managing the emotional aspect of writing as low. Additional analyses using the Fisher’s Exact Test revealed no statistically significant findings when exploring associations between various demographic factors and scholarly writing, knowledge, skills or attitudes.

Conclusions: Based upon these findings, nurse educators can incorporate evidence-based teaching strategies that facilitate writer development and prepare nurses who can work effectively with the interprofessional team to deliver safe, quality care. Nurse educators need to address the emotional aspects that are associated with student attitudes toward writing. Faculty should devise meaningful activities to overcome the feelings that writing evokes for many students. Another suggestion for faculty involves incorporating activities the will enable students to adequately summarize work. Various teaching-learning strategies can be implemented to ensure that baccalaureate graduates are sufficiently prepared to face future writing challenges particularly those encountered during continuing education in graduate programs. Educators also need to ensure that these written communication skills that students develop will enable graduates to thrive in a global community and influence nursing actions. Ongoing research about this topic is needed.