Opposites Attract: A Unique Partnership Between Nursing and Construction Management Students

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Deborah Spoerner, DNP, MSN, RN, CPNP
Rebecca Johnson, MBA, RN, CPN
M. Erin Hoying, MSN, RN, CPN
Abby Berg, MSN
School of Nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Background: Combined service learning (SL) and interprofessional education (IPE) experiences can advance student learning outside traditional classroom boundaries and unify professional values and beliefs. Service learning occurs when there is a balance between learning goals and service outcomes (Furco, 1996). IPE promotes teamwork and collaboration, and can lead to a better understanding of essential roles, responsibilities, and relationships for effective collaboration (Murdoch, Epp, & Vinek, 2017. Undergraduate students participating in combined SL and IPE experiences report appreciation for the work of others, respect for interprofessional teamwork, and confidence in the ability to work in partnership with other professions.

In a recent report from the American Academy of Colleges of nursing, The New Era of Academic Nursing, there is a call for academic nursing to cultivate teaching strategies which prepare future nurses for the changing healthcare practice (AACN, 2016). As nursing education moves into the future, there has been an increasing shift towards preparing nurses to practice in an interdisciplinary practice. Nurses will no longer be siloed into roles, but instead work in a collaborative role. IPE is an exemplar strategy which can utilized. Currently, IPE in healthcare and even across healthcare into other disciplines when focused on population health issues is guided by Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC, 2016).

While not uncommon for IPE and SL to be linked in the education setting as a teaching strategy, usually the collaboration is between like minded disciplines. For instance, nursing students working with other healthcare professionals, such as medical students. The uniqueness of this IPE and SL was the collaboration of students from differing disciplines. For the purpose of this project, undergraduate nursing and construction management students partnered and engaged in service learning with a local child development center to design and construct a natural playscape.

Project Implementation: Eight interdisciplinary student teams were required to work collaboratively, apply principals of their respective professions, participate in reflection activities, and develop a professional proposal for a natural playscape. Nursing students applied principles of growth and development throughout the project, while construction management students applied principles of design. The final proposals were presented to the community partner, course instructors, and classroom peers. The community partner ultimately selected aspects of the proposals to implement at the child development center.

Reflection activities were an integral piece which allowed students to link the experience to their current and newly acquired knowledge. Schmidt and Brown (2016) recommend having continuous reflective activities throughout the experience; this allows students to disseminate the challenges, questions, and insights which were gained over the experience. In addition, Schmidt and Brown (2016) endorse multiple delivery methods of reflection be utilized before, during, and after the experience. The use of a reflection matrix allows for organization of the activities. In addition to written reflective activities before and during the project, the students created a video journal which served as a reflection of their experience in SL and IPE.

Results: Following the project, students submitted anonymous surveys to discuss the efficacy of combined SL and IPE as an educational strategy for nursing students. Survey questions addressed the impact of the project on teamwork, communication, problem solving, and how the project may benefit students in their future career. The aspects of teamwork, communication and problem solving are not new topics for healthcare related IPE projects but what do student responses reveal? Will the feedback responses be similar to those produced in a similar study where students reflected issues with time restraints when collaborating with other disciplines, were course objective met through this IPE experience as they were in this study, and is there an appreciation for the benefits of learning to enhance their communication skills across professions? (Leander, 2014).