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You’ll need to be creative to effectively educate yourself and other nurses, advises Janet K. Johnson, RN, BSHA, CEN, SANE, coordinator of clinical forensic services and former ED nurse manager at Central Peninsula General Hospital in Soldotna, AK. "To maintain a high level of professional practice, we must maintain our knowledge bank," she says. "There are great opportunities. You just have to open your eyes and be willing to look outside the box." With dwindling budget dollars for staff development and increasing time constraints, finding creative solutions for education is crucial, urges Johnson.
Nurses may avoid participating in educational programs and argue that they do not have the time or the staffing to attend inservices, says Patti R. Zuzelo, EdD, RN, CS, assistant professor at La Salle University School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and per diem nurse in the emergency trauma care department at Abington (PA) Memorial Hospital. "This creates a no-win’ loop for nurses, educators, managers, and patients," she says.
Nurses must maintain clinical expertise to provide competent and safe care to patients, but they often fear that patient care may be jeopardized if they leave the clinical area to attend educational programs, explains Zuzelo. "To address this, you must offer education in a variety of creative and efficient venues, using educational strategies that promote self-directed learning," recommends Zuzelo.
Here are effective ways of doing this:
• Put on your own conference.
It can be expensive and time consuming to fly out to conferences, notes Johnson. "I coordinated efforts to bring local, state, and national speakers to our own conference for two years," she reports. Johnson worked with vendors to obtain support for the conference. "In return, they were able to show the latest and greatest,’" she says. As a result, ED nurses received education and the ability to see the newest technology, says Johnson. "We kept our practice current and selected capital equipment as a knowledgeable team," she adds.
Johnson recommends enlisting the help of experts in your facility and community. "We need to realize that we all have an area of expertise," she suggests. "With a little education on presenting an educational offering, most individuals can be very successful."
• Listen to audiotapes during commuting time.
Johnson listens to educational audiotapes on her 40-minute commute to work every day. "This is a cherished time for me to stay current in the field," she says. "When you take advantage of this time, you do not feel you are cutting into your precious personal time to read journals and stay abreast of current trends."
• Start a monthly newsletter.
As an ED manager, Johnson wrote a monthly newsletter to keep nurses current on activities of the department. "It also allowed an opportunity to inject research findings and new guidelines," she says.
• Use storytelling.
At Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, WA, a preceptor course uses storytelling as a basis. "We give the students the opportunity to tell their stories about their experiences as new nurses, then pull key concepts from those stories," says Elaine Keavney, RN, BSN, CEN, coordinator for ED education and quality improvement. Each participant is asked to share an incident he or she will never forget. "These are submitted to us as instructors ahead of time, to allow us the opportunity to pull out common themes," says Keavney. For example, previous themes have included the importance of being compassionate to colleagues, ways to encourage a new nurse (including a gentle push to action if necessary and differences in learning styles).
• Use an intranet for on-line education.
Many institutions use a local intranet within their facilities to support intra-institutional communications, says Zuzelo. "The intranet can be a highly effective way to provide on-line education to staff," she suggests. Educational offerings may be individualized to suit the unique needs of your ED, she explains. "Also, as with self-learning modules, nurses can set their own pace for completing on-line educational offerings," she adds.
• Provide a variety of options.
It is important to remember that nurses, just like patients, have different learning styles, says Zuzelo. "Some prefer cognitive learning with reading, audiotapes, or lecture," she says. "Videotapes, intranet slide shows, or posters may appeal to visual learners. Psychomotor activities may best suit those learners who prefer to learn by doing.’"
• Use clear, measurable learning objectives.
These types of objectives are critically important, says Zuzelo. "Nurses will more likely participate in educational endeavors with clear objectives that they believe are important to safe practice," she explains. "Good communication is essential." (See "Sample learning objectives," in this issue.)
• Hang information in the bathroom.
Johnson recommends hanging educational posters in the staff bathroom. "In the fast pace of the ED, one of the most under-utilized areas is the bathroom," she says. "This is a place to sit, relax a moment, and look straight ahead — at a learning poster!"
For more information about education of nursing staff, contact:
• Janet K. Johnson, RN, BSHA, CEN, SANE, Central Peninsula General Hospital, 250 Hospital Place, Soldotna, AK 99669. Telephone: (907) 262-8126. Fax: (907) 262-0717. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Elaine Keavney, RN, BSN, CEN, Emergency Department, Good Samaritan Hospital, 407 14th Ave. S.E., Puyallup, WA 98371. Telephone: (253) 848-6661, Ext. 1051. Fax: (253) 445-5075. E-mail: email@example.com.
• Patti R. Zuzelo, EdD, RN, CS, La Salle University, School of Nursing, 1900 W. Olney Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19141. Telephone: (215) 951-1904. Fax: (215) 951-1896. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.