TODAY'S COMPLEX AND DYNAMIC health care landscape requires inquisitive and self-reflective nurse professionals who identify and acknowledge patterns of human experience. In working toward this goal in undergraduate nursing education, faculty must move the curriculum beyond the science of nursing care into the art of nursing. With a focus on the integration of arts and humanities into nursing education, nurse educators will increase selfreflective practices among their students and augment their ability to think critically as competent and caring nurses.
While empirical evidence of how the study of art increases analytical critical thinking skills is lacking, the role of the humanities has been discussed in numerous nursing publications (1-4). Their benefits have been hailed as a driving force in the development of communication skills and the encouragement of distinctive interpretations of life situations in a sociocultural and historical context (1,2).
The use of aesthetic intervention is prominent in the nursing literature, and the active participation of students in artistic media has been explored as a means for developing creativity and enhancing meaning for students about their role as nurse in the current health care system (5,6). Other benefits, such as the illumination of personal values and morality, an increase in decisionmaking abilities, a respect for the intuitive thought process, and the fostering of curiosity and intellectual inquiry, have been cited as well (1).
An upper-division elective, Art in Nursing, was developed to enhance critical thinking by engaging undergraduate nursing students in the world of art. This course involves the integrative and creative process of critique, inquiry, and the creation of artistic endeavors, allowing students to derive themes, make inferences, and participate in the creative, intuitive process of aesthetic knowing. Emphasis is placed on the study and application of art forms as they relate to nursing care.
The six cognitive skills of critical thinking developed by the American Philosophical Association's Delphi Study (7) - interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation - are the cornerstone of the course objectives and are built into assignments and evaluation techniques. They epitomize the philosophy of the course, which is to nurture and enrich the creative, perceptive, and critical thought processes of the students by engagement in the world of art. Upon completion of the course, students are expected to meet the following competencies:
* Identify, examine, and interpret themes that emerge from visual and linguistic art forms
* Analyze derived art themes for an historical perspective and relatedness to the nursing profession
* Evaluate art forms from the perspective of the professional nurse
* Make logical inferences based on perceptions of visual art forms
* Explain visual and linguistic art forms as they relate to the nursing perspective and society at large
* Engage in the process of art creation as a self-regulative, unifying experience. …