|Learning Objective #1: Explain the mechanisms of human decision-making based upon unconsious biases for or against people because of attributes such as age, race, or gender.|
|Learning Objective #2: Describe how automatic responses can elbow out rational thought when time is measured in literal split seconds in daily nursing practice.|
While much of nursing practice emphasizes the process and possible outcomes of care, there is a dearth of research about the agent who is administering that care—the personal response of the registered nurse to various alterations in health. The concept of prejudice is examined from the perspective of the registered professional nurse. Although a knee-jerk reaction to a host of public health problems may run the gamut of emotional response from moral repugnance to glee depending upon the situation, graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire participate in a nursing course designed to evoke critical thinking about their own human responses to a vast array of human conditions. Students are asked to apply theory to understand their personal responses to the suffering of others. Using the work of theorist Malcolm Gladwell who has written about the split-second decisions made in nearly every situation based on unconscious biases, the Implicit Association Test (IAT), available online at www.implicit.harvard.edu , and relevant nursing literature, we present evidence for the need to study human responses of the nurse. Using examples drawn from personal experience in nursing, graduate students are asked to think about their own biases. Some cases are laden with social stigma such as child sexual abuse, family alcoholism, or methamphetamine addiction. Some examples, such as community response to new immigrants, reveal almost no research into the impact of social prejudice upon care. Students are asked to examine their personal biases, to interview colleagues, and to comb relevant literature for ideas and insights. The educational strategy and evidence base we have used in our course, the IAT, examples of student presentations, and implications for nursing practice and research will be presented.