AS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF NURSING in a Stepwise Baccalaureate Program for RNs at Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, Kathleen L. Sitzman, MS, RN, Is Heavily Involved in Developing and Maintaining Online and On-Campus Curricula

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AS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF NURSING in a stepwise baccalaureate program for RNs at Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, Kathleen L. Sitzman, MS, RN, is heavily involved in developing and maintaining online and on-campus curricula. Kathy is also a doctoral student at the University of Northern Colorado School of Nursing and one of the principal investigators in a three-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health, to assess factors that influence blood-borne pathogen exposure in nurses who make home visits. Some of her nursing education research--an exploration of the concept of caring online in BSN and graduate-level nursing classes--will be published later this year in NURSING EDUCATION PERSPECTIVES.

Kathy teaches a variety of courses--nursing history and theory, nursing research, community health nursing, an honor's seminar, and a senior seminar--both online and in person to RNs who have completed their associate degree in nursing. Some students have been practicing for three months, while others have been practicing for as long as 30 years. This environment presents a host of challenges. Kathy tries to create learning situations where the more experienced nurses have opportunities to share lived experiences, and beginners have opportunities to clarify concerns. And, while she points to similarities between online and classroom teaching, she notes how difficult it can be to ensure content equity between the two modes of delivery.

Central to Kathy's teaching, integrated into every class she teaches, is nursing theory. Early in her graduate education, she explains, she learned how theory forms the underpinnings of practice, education, and research. "It was a revelation to me that nurse theorists are some of the most profound thinkers of our time. I became entranced with their brilliant and creative minds. Along with admiration for them, I felt proud that I was a nurse--just like them!" This discovery led to further study and eventual dismay when she realized that many of her nurse colleagues discounted the relevance and importance of nursing theory.

In her teaching, Kathy emphasizes the importance of theory and the position of prominence it should hold in the profession. Because nursing theory forms the underpinnings of nursing practice in all realms, she finds it possible to smoothly incorporate theory into just about any content area. "I talk about Nola Pender's health promotion model in community health nursing. All of the theorists are pertinent in nursing research as we explore how best to perform research based on various theories. For the senior seminar and honors classes, I encourage students to choose one or two theorists that resonate with their own professional values and observations, and then incorporate their theories into whatever projects they might be completing."

With Lisa Eichelberger, a prominent nursing theory expert, Kathy is author of a textbook for baccalaureate-level students, Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists: A Creative Beginning (Jones and Bartlett, 2004). Kathy relates how the idea for the textbook originated. "My first-semester BSN students would come to class wondering why in the world they had to waste time and money on learning about nursing theory. They questioned its value and were dubious about the prospect of applying theory to their daily practice. I began searching for ways to make theory meaningful and personally applicable for these students." Kathy adds that the textbook used for the course at that time was too complex for her students, who experienced frustration and confusion trying to glean useful information.

Rather than trying to convey the intricacies of nursing theory, Kathy found it more effective to provide opportunities for students to explore concepts in nontraditional ways. She started using art forms to illustrate different types of theory, which evolved into inviting students to create art pieces to demonstrate their understanding. …


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