Integrating Theory in an Alternative Community Health Nursing Clinical Experience

Monday, 9 November 2015

Brandy E. Strahan, PhD, RN, RN
Crystal Bennett, PhD, RN, RN
Department of Nursing, University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL, USA

Today’s nursing students engage in various learning styles, presenting challenges for faculty to educate and create meaningful learning.  Numerous other factors, such as limited clinical sites and increased competition for these sites, add to the challenge.  Moreover, nursing faculty are pressured to increase the number of graduates and improve retention rates as education has become increasingly focused on didactic lecture and skill attainment negating students’ learning styles.  Nursing education needs to be relevant and responsive as student learning evolves and transitions from passive recipients to self-authorship.  In an effort to attain relevancy and respond to students’ learning needs, an alternative approach to community nursing clinical in a baccalaureate program was created utilizing Kolb’s experiential learning theory as a framework.  Kolb (1984) deemed learning as the process wherein knowledge is created through experience.  This process is achieved through four modes of experiential learning:  concrete experience learning (CE), reflective observation skills (RO), abstract conceptualization abilities (AC), and active experimentation (AE).  Utilizing Kolb’s first two components, senior nursing students were assigned a bus ride on public transportation in order to immerse themselves fully, openly, and without bias in a culturally diverse environment and were to also reflect on and observe their experience from many viewpoints.  Students journaled to capture reflective observation from these experiences to display modes of adaptation that occur during learning, that is, moving from one dimension to another in varying degrees.  This assignment helped empower students to take responsibility for their learning and created a transformative clinical experience.  The alternative community nursing clinical experience will be used to guide the future development of learning activities for the undergraduate nursing program whereby students can conceptualize observations into theories and implement those theories into problem solving and decision making.  Future exploration of Kolb’s experiential learning theory includes utilizing the Learning Style Inventory to assess individual student learning styles and evaluation of the undergraduate curricula in addressing the needs of students.