Revitalizing the Humanistic Imperative in Nursing Education

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT This article describes a teaching strategy that focuses students' attention on the humanistic imperative in nursing practice. The Humanistic Teaching Method provides a framework for adapting nursing courses to accommodate person-to-person, human-centered nursing care alongside scientific and technological competencies. Through this approach, students integrate concepts such as humanism, existentialism, and phenomenology into patient interactions. In addition to producing a favorable effect on patients and colleagues, this approach contributes to personal gratification in making a difference in the lives of others. Pedagogical strategies currently in use may need to be modified to accommodate the humanistic conceptual framework.

Key Words Humanism--Existentialism--Phenomenology--Humanistic Teaching

**********

* Where does the NURSING STUDENT LEARN the human-centered aspects of patient care? How does the nursing student learn to provide the necessary response to the health-related needs of the PATIENT IN A HUMANISTIC MANNER?

ALL STUDENTS, ON THEIR FIRST DAY OF CLASS IN NURSING SCHOOL, are introduced to the maxim that nursing is a service profession responsible to society to provide competent, skilled, and humane care. This maxim is echoed in nurse practice acts, codes of ethics, social policy statements, and standards of practice, all of which focus on nurses' obligations to provide competent patient care and attend to patients' human responses to health care needs. From this starting point, nursing curricula evolve around a technically focused set of courses, including fundamentals, medical-surgical, psychiatric-mental health nursing, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, and courses specifically designed to teach critical thinking skills. In these courses, the emphasis is on illnesses, systems, organs, and pathology. Learning objectives center around specified sets of interventions that have been tried in the past with varying degrees of success or failure. * For the most part, although not entirely, the learning activities of these courses are fact and skill oriented. Students are required to learn parameters of normal values, identify and describe signs and symptoms, calculate or verify medication dosages, and demonstrate skills such as taking blood pressure, giving injections, doing sterile dressings, suctioning, and catheterization. Supplementary are lessons in interpersonal and communications skills intended, in large part, to enable students to collect health histories and obtain physical examination data that they will analyze according to the nursing process in order to formulate a care plan. The content of these lessons and the myriad details learned from them can be characterized as scientific knowledge, that is, knowledge that can be demonstrated, taught, and consequently learned.

The Humanistic Teaching Model Responding to the imbalance that exists between the scientific/technological and humanistic imperatives in nursing education and practice, the author formulated and tested the Humanistic Teaching Model at a large university in New York City. This involved reconceptualizing several core nursing courses within the humanistic teaching framework, including Foundations, Nursing as a Human Science, and Psychiatric Mental Health, both in the classroom and in clinical settings. Students were generic undergraduate students, graduate students, and registered nurses studying for their baccalaureate degrees.

Each course adhered to the Humanistic Teaching Model despite differences in theoretical and clinical content. Based on the academic level and characteristics of the students, there were also differences in depth and content of topical materials. Notwithstanding these differences, all classes responded in the same way to this new teaching method.

Teaching Within the Basic Structure of the Model The Humanistic Teaching Model is organized under the constructs of humanism, existentialism, and phenomenology. …