FORMULATING PRIORITIES FOR Research in Nursing Education: A CONSENSUS-BUILDING APPROACH

Article excerpt

To expand the scientific foundation for nursing education, the National League for Nursing is establishing a national agenda for research in nursing education. This groundbreaking effort will define research priorities that can serve as a rallying point for education researchers across the nation. The goal of this consensus-building effort is to focus nursing education research efforts on discovering the core of knowledge needed to bridge education and practice as we move into the 21st century. This article describes the process being used in this historic dialogue.

The Background Since its inception in 1893, as the American Society of Superintendents of Training School for Nurses (ASSTSN), the National League for Nursing has been dedicated to, and considered the pioneer of, nursing education. The initial purpose of the ASSTSN was to establish and maintain a universal standard of training for nursing -- not to be prescriptive and limiting, but to establish a standard of excellence that would guide the development of nursing education programs.

Over the past 106 years, the NLN's commitment to excellence in nursing education has not wavered, despite its attention in recent decades to health policy formulation and the improvement of the health of communities. Health policy initiatives and the emphasis on improving health clearly are significant concerns to members of the academy, but they are more indirect, rather than direct, concerns.

In 1998, the NLN reaffirmed its one definitive mission, to advance "quality nursing education that prepares the nursing workforce to meet the needs of diverse populations in an ever-changing health care environment." Such clarity of mission recognizes the need to prepare graduates who can deliver quality, evidence-based care. Further, it also acknowledges that nursing practice and nursing education take place in an environment that is characterized by unprecedented change, uncertainly, unpredictability, and ambiguity.

This reaffirmed, definitive mission of the NLN has guided the Board of Governors and the organization's leadership staff to identify a number of strategic initiatives that will make the mission "come alive." Such initiatives are intended to achieve several purposes:

* Position the NLN as the leader in shaping the development of nursing curricula and educational models.

* Enhance the professional development of faculty.

* Develop and articulate nursing education standards and methods of accountability.

* Strengthen the use of technology as an instructional strategy.

* Promote and support evidence-based teaching and curricula.

In light of this last goal, the Board of Governors voted in 1998 to establish the Blue Ribbon Panel on Priorities for Research in Nursing Education and to empower the Panel to play a significant role in creating a preferred future for nursing education. Specifically, the Blue Ribbon Panel was charged to "consider the future needs and demands of the health care system and set priorities for research to define and test ways for preparing the nursing workforce for the future."

Through this action, the Board of Governors affirmed that research in nursing education is a vital part of the scientific enterprise of preparing nurses for practice. The currency of previously established priorities for such research (1) must be called into question in light of the tremendous social and industrial changes that have occurred during the past decade. The vast number of powerful forces that have evolved since 1987 should be reflected in nursing education research.

The forces affecting nursing education emanate from changes in general curricular approaches, the nature of students, public sentiment, higher education funding, the distribution of education via technology, health care system reform, and the dominant clinical theme of nursing research. Although these forces have acted together to lead faculty toward major revisions in nursing education, revisions of the priorities for developing the attendant scientific underpinnings of education have not followed sufficiently. …