THE CONCEPTUALIZATION AND ORGANIZATION OF CLINICAL LEARNING EXPERIENCES IN THE BACCALAUREATE NURSING CURRICULUM
Clinical learning experiences are an essential part of the professional curriculum in nursing education. This study examined clinical learning experiences in a random sample of generic baccalaureate nursing programs accredited by the National League for Nursing. The purpose of the study was to identify current conceptualizations of nursing practice in curriculum documents, and to describe current patterns of organizing clinical learning experiences in baccalaureate nursing education.
The study addressed three research questions: (1) What beliefs in foundational curriculum documents in baccalaureate nursing education contribute to a conceptualization of nursing practice? (2) What is the content and organization of learning experiences in clinical courses in baccalaureate nursing curricula? (3) Is there a difference between the conceptualization of nursing practice expressed in curriculum documents and the organization of clinical learning experiences in the baccalaureate nursing curriculum according to the variables of client, nurse, and setting?
These research questions were investigated through a two part study design: (1) a content analysis of foundational curriculum documents, and (2) a survey analysis of the content and organization of clinical courses. Both portions of the study examined common variables as a framework for analysis: clients and their characteristics, nursing interaction, and settings for nursing practice.
The data were analyzed in three parts. The first part was a content analysis of the curriculum philosophy and program objectives. The second part was a frequency analysis of the content of the clinical courses, and the third was a comparative analysis of the findings. In addition, a content analysis was done of words used in clinical course titles.
Findings of the study include extensive description of 496 clinical courses by type of clients, nursing focus, and settings utilized. Philosophical support for generalist clinical preparation at the baccalaureate level was identified. Discrepancies, however, were identified between this position and the actual organization of experiences in clinical courses.
Implications of study findings for nursing education are discussed in view of changing health care needs and systems for health care delivery. Recommendations are made for curriculum practice in baccalaureate nursing education.