The existence of a gap between the theory and practice the nursing field has existed for a long time creating various discussions and debates on who is responsible. What the academics teach about the ideal and required practice in the profession seems to be incongruent to what the students experience upon graduation and are then professionals (Levin, 2010). The question of what is practiced in the clinical setting and what is offered as knowledge in the academic circles seems to have no any answer. This gap brings challenges to the nurses, students as well as other professionals (Rolfe, 1993). The unfortunate bit, most nursing practitioners and students seem to blame those in authority for such kind of discrepancy. Those in authority might feel others and the system in place as the hindrance to attaining the ideal clinical context that would be favorable for every stakeholder. Nonetheless, different research studies have been carried out to devise methods, approaches, and strategies that can be used to bridge that gap. Thus, this paper will pay close examination to various strategies that can be utilized in the nursing profession to see the desired change in place.
The most affected stakeholders in the nursing profession by this gap are the students since the feel the change as they go through the transition to join the profession (Levin, 2010). Their expectations are not met and they get in a situation of wondering what would have gone wrong. Some undergo stressful events and devote themselves entirely in pursuit of that which they were taught in school. However, the environment being unconducive demotivates them and leaves them experiencing serious difficulties in the practice. In fact, for some, it takes such a long time to be able to deal with the theory-practice gap accordingly which affects their productivity in the workplace. That makes it a greater reason to address this problem through the implementation of various strategies in the clinical context that are sustainable.
The problem can be resolved from the academic circles where theoretical knowledge is provided. Tutors and trainers should not provide close-to-perfect outcomes of situations. However, they should train their students in such a way that a given situation can result in various outcomes. As such, the student nurses will have a flexible approach to the profession. The expected results should be a reflection of real life experiences and not ideal. In any case, life is not linear, and things cannot always be as required or expected. As such, when the expectation of the nurse-students are within the realistic scope, when they get to the practice, they will be able to make necessary adjustments and not widen the gap. Holzemer, (2008), suggests that the rules provided in the nursing academia should be in line with those in the practice such that the transition to the field will be easy. Also, the nurses will not feel like what they were studying in school is so different from what is practiced. Levin, (2010) also emphasizes the need for tutors to look beyond the knowledge they offer the students to the application of it in practice. That involves assessment student understanding and ability to apply concepts taught in class and not a mere reproduction of information. Thus teachers have a great responsibility of training students to be professionals who take initiatives and are committed to bringing change in the profession than just complaining of the prevalent gaps as highlighted by Landers, (2000). And the students also have a responsibility of applying that which that is taught and ensure learning through changed attitude and worldview.
As such, there is also need for students to have experience in nursing while undertaking their studies. The use of the clinical scholar model reduces the gap since the students are given exposure to the practice of the nursing profession from time to time. It allows implementation of the knowledge studied in class to the real life practice under supervision. Such consistent exposure is vital because it allows the students to see various dimensions of the professions and expected outcomes. Thus upon the completion of studies, the student nurse will have had enough experience and will not require much orientation in practice. Such nurses can mingle well with other professions, they have realistic expectations and help in the attainment of the organizational goals. When students get enough practice, it ensures that the reduction of a gap that exists where students are able to replicate knowledge in class but when exposed to real life situations they are unable. A skilled nurse will require to have the knowledge and be able to apply that in the field.
Moreover, another strategy that can be used is to ensure that the quality of instruction is the highest possible since the nursing field is dynamic and there is need to apply up to date information. For instance, research findings that seemed to bring incredible results a few years ago cannot be used blindly since there may be various changes that may necessitate adjustments of eth theory to fit in practice. Just because a study suggested that the best drug to combat a certain disease is X, it does not mean that that should be taken as gospel truth in practice. As such, nurses ought to be taught by professionals who have been in the field long enough and acquired necessary experience. But the teaching of the nurses by scholars who have been in the academia all through their life may continue widening the gap as noted by Sellman, (2010). There is a huge difference between a teacher who has been in practice and the one who has been in the academia alone since some things do not manifest as written in real life situations. Thus, there is a need to make sure that lecturers remain up-to-date with current trends in the profession to reduce the theory-practice gap. In fact, there is a need for all stakeholders in the field to work together collaboratively for the bridging of the gap. Otherwise, when researchers, scholars, tutors and management each work in isolation in the clinical context, the gap continue widening.
In conclusion, bridging the gap between theory and practice in the nursing field requires the efforts and input of all players in the field. The tutors play a very critical role since they train and teach the professionals. If they provide necessary skills and exposure to the students through giving them practicum lessons from time to time, the gap will narrow. Also, the clinical scholar model can be very instrumental in ensuring that the student nurses study and practice concurrently and thus they wont have unrealistic expectations once they start practicing fill time. Finally, there is a need for collaboration among the researchers, tutors, students and practicing nurses with similar rules and systems that will ensure the transition of nursing students to the profession will be smooth.
Holzemer, W. L. (2008). Nursing theory remembering our future. Japan Journal of Nursing Science, 5, 71
Landers, M. (2000). The theory-practice gap in nursing: The role of the nurse teacher. Journal of Advanced Nursing.32 (6):1550-1556
Levin, R. F. (2010). Integrating evidence-based practice with educational theory in clinical practice for nurse practitioners: Bridging the theory-practice gap. Research and theory for nursing practice, 24(4), 213-216.
Rolfe, G. (1993). Closing the theorypractice gap: a model of nursing praxis. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2(3), 173-177.
Sellman, D. (2010). Mind the gap: philosophy, theory, and practice. Nursing Philosophy, 11(2), 85-87.
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