ALL THE VOICES IN THE ROOM: Integrating Humanities in Nursing Education

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Participatory action research was used to link the humanities with a deeper level of teaching and learning. Planning, action, reflection, and evaluation steps were collaboratively implemented by two nurse faculty researchers and five graduate nursing education students in a midsized, comprehensive, public midwestern university. Planning involved a literature review of the use of humanities in nursing education. Action entailed an essay assignment and an artwork-exhibition workshop. Written appraisal of the workshop provided data that were analyzed phenomenographically in the reflection step. Two categories, with descriptive subcategories, emerged: "Feelings" and "Learning Evaluation." Implications for nursing education leading to the generation of practical knowledge are discussed.

The humanities, the branches of knowledge that address the state or quality of being human and living authentically (1), have been called the language of the soul (2), Integrating the humanities in nursing education reinforces the balance between the art and science of nursing (1) and inspires and strengthens all the voices in the room. Through images, symbols, and sounds, nursing students give voice to their appreciation for universal truths and the uniqueness of the individual experience. * This article describes the integration of the humanities into a graduate nursing education course. Participatory action research (PAR), a form of action research that places prime importance on collaboration with participants by including them as co-researchers throughout the entire process (3), was used to link the humanities with a deeper level of teaching and learning. Two faculty and five graduate students collaborated to implement this research method. THIS ARTICLE ADDRESSES THE PLANNING, ACTION, REFLECTION, AND EVALUATION COMPONENTS OF THE EXPERIENCE.

Planning Action research, used frequently in practice settings, can be highly effective in education. Essentially, action research involves taking action to improve practice and systematically studying the effects of the action taken. Problems are described, possible solutions are identified and implemented, and the process and outcome of change are evaluated (6). The goal is to generate practical knowledge relating directly to the problems specific to a setting. Practitioners are then able to learn about their practice in that setting and implement change to improve their practice.

The planning step of action research involves data generation (4). To that end, the participants reviewed the literature to examine support for integrating humanities in nursing education and how such integration has already been accomplished.

THE NEED FOR HUMANITIES IN NURSING EDUCATION Although recent technological advancements have strengthened the science of health care, the art of health care is poorly recognized and underutilized (2). Valiga and Bruderle (1) stated that the humanities enable a balance in presenting the science and art of nursing in nursing education and contend, as do others, that failure to teach the humanities constitutes a disservice to students (5-12).

The understanding that teaching modalities integrating the humanities expand one's appreciation of the human experience aligns with the American Nurses Association's statement that nursing needs to attend to "the full range of human experiences and responses" (13, p. 6). It is consistent with the consumer demand for humanistic health care. According to Barry, humanizing health care is dependent on understanding human experience, and must begin with teaching nursing through the "lens of caring" (14, p. 28).

A lens of caring requires nurses to use personal, empirical, ethical, and aesthetic ways of knowing (15). This affects and influences how nurses generate knowledge. "Aesthetic expressions are guides to the essence of human experiences in health and illness" (9, p. 529). Through these expressions, students experience other ways of knowing. …