Enhancing nursing education and patient care

A photo of Dr. Donna Ignatavicius with UACCB nursing faculty

Beginning in the fall 2019 semester, the registered nursing program at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville will adopt a new curriculum focused on teaching students broad concepts of patient care rather than content memorization.

UACCB is working with Donna “Iggy” Ignatavicius, president of DI Associates, Inc., to implement concept-based curriculum for nursing programs at UACCB. Ignatavicius is nationally recognized as an expert in nursing education and medical surgical/gerontological nursing. She conducts local, regional and national conferences and program consultation on curriculum transformation, active learning strategies and evaluation methods.

The curriculum change will begin in the registered nursing program with implementation in the practical nursing and emergency medical technician programs to follow. Ignatavicius visited campus on July 29 to discuss the phases of the transition to a concept-based curriculum with UACCB nursing faculty, however Ignatavicius said the faculty’s efforts began months ago. 

“We started working together back in April via conference calls. A great deal of work including the course descriptions was already completed before I arrived on campus,” she said.

The White River Health System Foundation partnered with UACCB to help defer the costs of consultation and training with Ignatavicius during the transition. Gary Paxson, White River Medical Center Administrator, said it was a natural synergy to collaborate with UACCB in an effort to produce a highly-qualified workforce for the local healthcare industry.

“One of the biggest challenges we’ve seen for nursing staff is the critical thinking process. This process [concept-based curriculum] does a much better job of teaching students to think critically. We saw it as an opportunity for an enhanced recruiting process, even to the extent that we restructure our processes and how we train our staff,” Paxson said.

According to Ignatavicius’s book Teaching and Learning in a Concept-Based Nursing Curriculum, “In a CBC [concept-based curriculum] approach, specific concepts are identified as the focus of the curriculum. Concepts are classifications/categories of information (knowledge) that can be ideas or mental images. A concept-based curriculum, then, is designed by organizing specific content around identified program concepts.” This form of curriculum is student-centered and requires students to be actively engaged in critical thinking and learning.

Karla Wilson, RN program online coordinator, and Katie Camden, RN generic/traditional track program coordinator, have spearheaded the efforts to transition to a concept-based curriculum with the assistance of Ignatavicius.

“Our RN program has utilized Iggy’s medical-surgical textbook for many years. Katie and I became more familiar with her by attending numerous nurse educator conferences where she was the keynote speaker. We loved her simplified common-sense approach to improving pre-licensure nurse education retention and completion through CBC,” Wilson said. “We clearly see the need to keep pace with an ever-changing healthcare environment to ensure our graduates have the broadest foundation when they begin their career as an RN.  We are invested in the success of each one of our students and want to ensure their continued success into practice.”

Marietta Candler, division chair for nursing and allied health, said the nursing faculty believed students would glean multiple benefits from the new curriculum design, including less “failure to recognize” when a patient(s) is declining and earlier interventions to prevent the decline; assisting students to take a “pro-active” role in their learning; a high level of student thinking/clinical reasoning; and reduction of “content overload.”

“I am so proud of the faculty for recognizing the need to update our registered nursing program's curriculum with a concept-based curriculum.  The students will have enhanced clinical reasoning skills upon graduating, and this will benefit the facilities that hire our graduates and the patients they care for in those settings. It’s an exciting time for the nursing and allied health department,” Candler said.