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National League for Nursing Breaks Ground in Assessing Challenge of Transforming Clinical Nursing Education


NLN Think Tank Convened Last Spring in Indianapolis Releases Report


New York, NY — March 6, 2009 — The invitational NLN Think Tank on Transforming Clinical Education report calls for fundamental changes in how pre-licensure nursing students are taught in a clinical setting.

Among the areas participants identified for potential restructuring were relationship-centered and patient-centered care. In the ideal model, students would be taught to view the clinical setting from a systemic perspective and be encouraged to forge connections with patients, family members, and staff; and understand the nurses role in each relationship.

Another of the think tanks suggestions for possible change involves the nature of clinical rotations. Rather than continue the current model — placing all students in the same rotations for an immersion experience near the conclusion of study — the group envisions offering more intensive experiences throughout the students years in school, engaging them in long-term individualized projects focused on varied patient populations and clinical settings.

The think tank was an outcome of the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Future of Nursing Education Research, assembled by the NLN to identify significant issues in nursing education requiring further study. Clinical education was at the top of everyones list, according to NLN CEO Beverly Malone. "Educators must keep in mind the essential connection of instruction to patient-centered care, necessitating ongoing collaboration with clinical practitioners," said Dr. Malone.

Twenty-one thought leaders from around the country met under the direction of Dr. Pamela Ironside, associate professor in the Indiana University School of Nursing in Indianapolis, and Dr. Christine Tanner, professor, Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Nursing in Portland. They were joined by a panel of observers, who periodically offered additional ideas and insights, and NLN professional staff.

"This was the beginning of a journey exploring how educators can collaborate with practitioners to best prepare students for todays challenging health care environment," said NLN president Dr. Elaine Tagliareni, who was a thought leader. "Clinical nursing education is the most critical step in transforming nursing education, because that is really at the heart of what were all about: getting nurses ready for clinical settings, for providing safe and excellent patient care. We must offer students clinic experiences that are top-notch."

Other areas the think tank considered were:

  • The most pressing issues in clinical nursing education, related to faculty, students, clinical settings, and general issues
  • Opportunities and challenges inherent in teaching a practice, including the need to identify those skills that can only be learned in a clinical setting
  • Goals for student learning in a clinical setting, including the integration of "three apprenticeships: intellectual, practical, and ethical" through self-awareness; critical thinking; building relationships with patients and family members; dynamics of teamwork; and knowledge of legal-ethical responsibilities

Recommendations of the think tank included a call for the NLN to organize a follow-up national invitational conference; publish a "Reflection & Dialogue" piece on clinical nursing education; develop an online repository of innovations in clinical education; create global links to help crystallize thinking about new models; and launch a national research study on the topic. A report on the National Survey on Clinical Education will be issued this summer, and it will be presented by survey director Dr. Pam Ironside at the NLN Education Summit in 2009 which focuses on clinical education.

Those interested may view the complete report by the Think Tank on Transforming Clinical Nursing Education, on the NLN website, at

Reporter/Editors: For interview opportunities, please call Karen R. Klestzick, NLN chief communications officer, at (212) 812-0376 or email

Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the premier organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN offers faculty development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its 29,000 individual and 1,200 institutional members who represent all types of nursing education programs.