Nursing Education and Developing Placement, Planning Learning Activities and Implement Service Learning

Developing Placement Sites for Service Learning In Nursing Education, Planning Learning Activities for Service Learning In Nursing Education, Implementing Service Learning in the Nursing Curriculum Service Learning In Nursing Education.

Developing Placement Sites for Service Learning In Nursing Education

    Anstee, Harris, Pruitt, and Sugar (2008) presented a process model for incorporating service learning into an academic class. The six stages of their model were:

(a) establishing community collaboration

(b) partnering in the classroom

(c) student training

(d) delivering the service

(e) returning to the classroom

(f) reporting to the stakeholders  

    Selecting a placement site and establishing collaboration within the community are important early steps. It is important to match the type of community organization and service with the institutional mission of the college when service learning experiences are being planned. 

  Before making plans regarding service placements, faculty should conduct a community needs assessment and develop a resource inventory, either informally through personal and telephone contact or formally through surveys or needs assessments. Community agency staff are invaluable in determining where students are needed the most and what the greatest need is. 

    Allowing community partners to control the identification of the service helps ensure that projects meet agency needs. Involvement of agency staff in the planning process also helps educate community agencies about service learning. Community advisory boards often help ensure continuous contact between agencies, students, faculty, and staff and ascertain evolving community needs. 

    Student safety is also an issue, and the agency and school have a responsibility to choose sites that are appropriate for the students’ safety needs. Once placement sites have been determined and projects are finalized, preceptors must be identified and dates for student orientation and initial meetings must be planned. 

    Written project descriptions, contact information, and a schedule of initial meetings should be available for students on the first day of class. Organization before the start of the semester ensures that students get started on projects promptly and are likely to complete projects within the semester time limit. 

    Although careful planning prevents many problems, faculty members should be prepared for the unexpected. Occasionally the needs of community agencies change (eg, because of funding cuts or receiving a grant), there may be conflicts between agencies’ needs for services and students’ schedules, or there may be dissatisfaction. 

    Sources of dissatisfaction may include students’ perception of inequality of time investment between groups, failure of the reality of the situation to match expectations, and problems in communication. Faculty members may need to intervene to prevent the escalation of problems and to renegotiate expectations.

Planning Learning Activities for Service Learning In Nursing Education

    Service learning can be used as an experientially based pedagogy to bring excitement and vitality to the classroom, to assist community members in need while at the same time learning from them, and to provide students with information and experiences through which they can engage in critical reflection about society’s needs and one’s responsibility to the community. 

    Opportunities may be discovered from a number of sources. Faculty may identify appropriate situations for service learning from their own service activities in a wide variety of community agencies. Opportunities may also be suggested by friends, colleagues, agency personnel, or students, or they may be found in the professional or secular literature. 

    When faculty have identified potential service learning experiences that seem to be appropriate for the course, discussions and negotiations are held with the agency staff. Legal issues also need to be considered when planning service activities. Any time a student performs service off campus in conjunction with coursework, liability issues may arise. 

    Faculty should seek legal counsel from the college or university regarding activities with potential liability, just as legal counsel is sought when contracts with clinical agencies are established. Institutional Review Board approval should be sought if students are collecting data as part of their service-learning projects. Once service-learning experiences have been planned, students must be engaged. 

    Faculty can use groups such as the student nurse’s association, student government, the student life office, and campus publicity mechanisms (eg, newspaper, radio station, online learning system bulletin boards) to inform students about service learning. Often courses or service-learning components of courses are open to students from a variety of disciplines, and faculty should distribute the course announcements widely. 

    Service learning’s best promoters are its own students, who attract other students by word of mouth. Student activities are planned so that they relate to the course objectives and content (Phillips, Bolduc, & Gallo, 2013). 

    Types of agencies and programs that could be used for nursing students engaged in service learning include state or county services for persons with different forms of impairment or disability, various types of health and health care facilities, social welfare agencies and day care programs, Meals on Wheels, senior centers, youth services, civic leagues, drug education programs, and groups or committees related to some aspects of government. 

    Community agencies offer many opportunities for students to collaborate with the agency to fulfill unmet needs. Some service experiences will involve assessment, others work in ongoing programs, and still others work on development and implementation of new programs or services. 

    During the final phase of the service experience, students who have developed new programs should work with agency partners to establish plans for sustainability. Students should compile materials to facilitate this continuation. Although the community agency should be an active partner throughout the activity, a summary meeting with the stakeholders should be held to close the service experience.

Implementing Service Learning in the Nursing Curriculum Service Learning In Nursing Education

    The nursing literature provides a variety of examples for ways to integrate service learning into the curriculum. In one program students spent the first half of the semester in the classroom learning background material and the second half of that semester and all of the following semester in a service learning experience. 

    Service learning courses are also designed to provide students an opportunity to work with underserved and vulnerable populations. For example, at one school, course placement sites include a child care center for homeless children, a senior citizens program, a center serving teenage parents, a mission for homeless individuals, Habitat for Humanity, and Head Start (Hales, 1997).

    Another course provides opportunities for students to work with an underserved sector of society that has a variety of needs and challenges that are often different from their own. Students provide health and developmental screenings, create handouts for parents, assess the social behavior of children, read safety storybooks to the children, and assist with classroom activities (Kulewicz, 2001). 

    Health promotion activities such as education on tobacco use can help to reduce the prevalence of cigarette smoking (Bassi, Cray, & Caldrello, 2008). In another example, working in partnership with a sheriff’s department, students conducted health assessments, participated in case findings, and provided health education (Fuller, Alexander, & Hardeman, 2006). 

    Service learning can also be integrated into faith based curricula and faith based nursing practices (Brown, 2009; Lashley, 2007). In one service-learning project, several Catholic Charities programs were targeted for service experiences, including an emergency shelter for battered women and their children, an addiction recovery treatment center for economically disadvantaged individuals, food pantries, and an inner-city school counseling service. 

    Initially the Department of Nursing focused on students’ ability to apply theoretical knowledge during the service experience. However, Herman and Sassatelli (2002). report that as the program evolved, it embraced Brackley’s (1988) challenge to have the “courage not to turn away from the eyes of the poor, but to allow them to break our hearts and shatter our world” (p. 38). 

    They also incorporated Dorr’s (1993) emphasis on the importance of not only feeling for economically disadvantaged individuals but also discovering what it means to be with them. Faculty and students found that companionship with economically disadvantaged individuals during the service experience encouraged understanding of what it means to be humanly weak and powerless (Herman & Sassatelli, 2002). 

    Brown (2009) reported that a faith-based service learning experience reduced mental illness stigma in an underserved community and increased students’ understanding of mental health problems and substance abuse. Because of the decreased stigma, patients reported greater willingness to seek treatment and use community resources.


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