The School of Nursing, a college within the Academic Health Center system, enrolls between 350–400 undergraduates in its BSN degree program. Courses offered both on the University’s Twin Cities campus and via satellite on the university’s Rochester campus are taught by 60–70 members of the unit’s regular and clinical faculties. Because BSN students interact with patients and also make contributions to the field, they must be able to produce writing that communicates technical information accurately, humanely, and professionally.
Creation Phase (Fall 2008-Spring 2009)
Perusing results from their WEC surveys, the Nursing faculty recognized a perception gap. Writing, to many of the students and professional nurses who responded, was either scholarly or professionally applicable–not both. In the words of one professional affiliate, “I am at the bedside using my brain to determine and analyze data to save lives not to write a paper.” Yet, in the words of a faculty member, “I think [writing] is extremely important. Poor writing can partially or totally diminish the impact that an otherwise highly competent professional nurse might have on improving health care.” As a result, the Nursing faculty created a curricular matrix that explicitly attends to the diverse kinds of writing abilities nursing students need to develop in order to think and communicate as well-rounded, pragmatic, and scholarly professionals.
Implementation Phase (2009-2010)
Faculty members in the School of Nursing wanted to reduce repetition of assignments in their undergraduate curriculum, strengthen students’ flexibility in writing for diverse audiences, and continue to hone the critical thinking and analytic skills of students. Implementation of the Writing Plan involved three complimentary approaches to meeting these needs. The first was a curriculum review for which a Research Assistant gathered instructional materials and interviewed faculty members in order to “explore a variety of assignment genres aimed at improving student synthesis and application of knowledge to specific patient situations.” Second, faculty members attended two workshops focused on ways of incorporating agreed-upon writing outcomes into course and assignment-specific grading rubrics and writing assignments. In April 2010, a panel discussion involving several of the school’s professional affiliates will focus on the importance of high quality writing in nursing professions.