Baccalaureate nursing education plays a significant role in the development of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is a core competency that nursing students need to have so they can efficiently address simple to complex clinical situations. Attainment of critical thinking skills during the undergraduate nursing program can positively impact students’ future nursing practice across a variety of in-patient and out-patient settings. The utilization of discipline-specific “teaching-learning strategies”, which facilitate the development of critical thinking among nursing students, is important. Horizontal integration of an undergraduate nursing curriculum is an innovative discipline-specific “teaching-learning strategy. Horizontal integration involves fusion of nursing curriculum content across different courses within the same phase of the curriculum. Integration of knowledge that is gained throughout different nursing courses can help students to use critical thinking for developing patient-centered comprehensive nursing care plans. In addition, the horizontal integration of nursing curriculum can facilitate nursing students’ competency for problem solving, development of good communication skills and team building. There is a need for innovative teaching-learning strategies that could facilitate horizontal integration of an undergraduate nursing curriculum. Collaboration among intra-professional nursing faculty is a key element for implementing horizontal integration of an undergraduate nursing curriculum.
The purpose of the study was to examine the impact of nursing faculty collaboration for horizontal integration of a nursing curriculum on: a) students’ attendance, b) student collaboration for interactive learning and critical thinking, c) course grades reflecting achievement of course goals, and d) student satisfaction with the course learning outcomes.
A mixed methodology design (descriptive quantitative and qualitative data for students’ perspectives) to pilot the intervention of a horizontal integration of nursing curriculum from two undergraduate courses (nursing research and mental health nursing) was used. All undergraduate nursing students enrolled in the nursing research class, in three consecutive semesters, were recruited. The observation phase included 52 students for the first semester and 39 for the second semester. The intervention phase included 40 students for the third semester. Purposive sampling was used. Students were divided into eight groups. Mental health nursing curriculum was integrated into the nursing research class for the written assignments, as well as for the in-class group activities, such as data collection for a phenomenological study from participants suffering with bipolar disorder. Descriptive statistics (frequencies, means, and standard deviations) were calculated for the demographics, students’ attendance, collaboration, and grades. Students’ perspectives related to the curriculum integration were categorized into themes.
The mean age of the students was 22 years and the majority were (n=428, 69.1%) Caucasians and n=78 (12.6%) were Hispanics, n=45 (7.3%) were Asians, and n=43 (6.9%) were African Americans. Findings revealed that class attendance and student collaboration improved by 60-65% for the third semester (intervention phase) students. Increased comprehension of research concepts and additional learning opportunity were two main themes for student satisfaction with the course learning outcomes.
Horizontal integration of a nursing curriculum with the intra-professional collaboration is an innovative teaching-learning strategy which leads to enhanced critical thinking, quality student learning outcomes, and attainment of desired course goals. The administrative teams at nursing schools should consider supporting nursing faculty collaboration to implement horizontal integration of undergraduate nursing curriculums, in order to achieve quality teaching and learning outcomes.