Strategy for Introducing Population Health in Undergraduate Nursing Curriculum

Monday, 30 October 2017

Dolores R. Dzubaty, PhD
School of Nursing,Health, and Exercise Science; Department of Nursing, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, USA

Undergraduate nursing programs have been challenged with the task of providing education to prepare nurses who will care for a diverse client population. Increased global migration has effected an increase in diversity of clients in all healthcare settings throughout the world. Population health does not limit the clients defining characteristics as only identified ethnicity or geographic area. “Populations can be defined by geography or grouped according to some common element (e.g. employees, ethnicity, medical condition)” (Nash, Fabious, Skoufalos, Clark, & Horowitz, 2016, p. 3). Preparing nurses who can recognize the multitude of factors which influence the clients’ health status and health practices can be accomplished using unfolding case studies in the curriculum. Unfolding case studies allow nurse educators to introduce hypothetical clients to students and allow analysis of the client related to the client population identified by the student group. Information can be provided to students in an ongoing manner throughout the semester. Client history, medical events, and other events can be factual or hypothetical (DeYoung, 2009). Students can identify the client population by language spoken, cultural health practices, and risk factors. Socioeconomic status, transportation and access to healthcare can be added to the multifactorial view of the client. Once these factors have been identified students can visualize how the overlapping aspects of each influence affects the client as an individual. The purpose of the case studies is to enable learning beyond information found in texts and inclusive of the populations of clients the students may not see in the clinical sites. Case studies enhance learning and collaboration among students (Billings & Halstead, 2009). During the initial phase of identifying the client population the student can delve into more specific information rather than general statements offered to describe a particular population. While seeking out the information needed to provide safe an effective care for the client the undergraduate nursing student learns more about what services may be available to assist the client. Questions offered by faculty regarding the healthcare risks, needs, and availability guide the students in seeking out information which enables discovery and evaluation of client resources and educational needs. Students’ active participation in the learning process through strategies such as the use of case studies has been shown to improve problem-solving and increased learning motivation (Yoo & Park, 2015). Improved problem-solving skills enhances the undergraduate nurses’ preparation to enter into nursing practice. Learners who are also motivated to learn may continue to use the skills learned while researching the case study client when they enter nursing practice which would positively affect the nursing care afforded their future patients.