Nursing Honors Programs Designed to Meet Global Healthcare Challenges

Tuesday, 10 November 2015: 10:20 AM

Judith A. Vessey, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN1
Catherine Y. Read, PhD, RN1
Judith Shindul-Rothschild, PhD, RNPC2
(1)Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA
(2)William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston Collge, Chestnut Hill, MA, USA

The presence of a nursing honors program is one indicator of baccalaureate program excellence and a pathway to developing nursing leaders for the global community.  An evidence-based practice approach was used to determine the state of science regarding nursing honors programs. Initially the existing research and educational literature related was reviewed. Results indicated that the literature uniformly supported the value of nursing honors programs, but little is known about the key content and contextual components needed for a quality nursing honors program. There was also little evaluative information regarding the role honors programs play in the development of future nurse scholars and nurse leaders. Based upon the synthesis of the literature and to further our understanding of nursing honors programs, a directed survey of nursing honors programs was conducted, revealing both strengths and challenges. Finally, a survey of potential honors students was conducted to ascertain their preferences regarding honors program structures and processes. Findings across these three domains—scientific literature findings, expert experience, and user preferences—were compiled.  ‘Best practices’ for contemporary nursing honors programs that prepare leaders to serve locally and lead globally are proposed.  

Key structural components for successful implementation include: financial support, committed advisors, flexible admission and curriculum design, mentored opportunities for research, opportunities for professional socialization, and a senior capstone project. A research emphasis is requisite but insufficient. Other processes embedded in honors programs must embrace leadership and networking opportunities. To address the needs of the global community, identified activities leading to evidence-based practice capstone projects included global public health coursework, international study experiences (semester or immersion), cultural reflections, volunteer work with individuals of varying cultural backgrounds, and foreign language training and opportunity to use foreign language in clinical settings. Challenges in developing an honors program, such as increased workload of faculty and students as well as insufficient funding, are described. Practical recommendations such as leveraging university and community resources are proposed. The proposed recommendations are designed to facilitate adoption of honors programs at baccalaureate schools of nursing. Outcomes of honors program graduates include being prepared as emerging leaders in the global community and ready to embrace the next steps, including graduate education, to help them realize their full potential. Creation and expansion of nursing honors programs in baccalaureate nursing education to address the healthcare needs of the global community requires the commitment of faculty and financial resources by schools of nursing.