Ms. Kinyon and Ms. Bozich Keith are Clinical Assistant Professors, School of Nursing, and Dr. Pistole is Associate Professor, College of Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana.
Address correspondence to Jane Kinyon, MSN, PMHCNS-BC, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, Purdue University, Johnson Hall of Nursing, 256F, 502 N. University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2069; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nurses accomplish many of their responsibilities through effective participation in group activities (Kneisl, Wilson, & Trigoboff, 2004). Although mental health nurses may use more group work in patient care (American Nurses Association, 2000), nurses with other practice expertise and in other settings also need group work proficiencies for tasks such as interdisciplinary team meetings, change-of-shift reports, treatment planning conferences, and patient education sessions. In many practice areas, nurses are involved in group meetings with families to discuss a patient’s care. Some nurses facilitate psychoeducational and support groups, whereas other nurses are involved in community task forces or other interdisciplinary group work.
Despite well-defined counseling literature on educating professionals for group work (Davenport, 2004), undergraduate nursing education has not emphasized process or experiential learning groups as a way to facilitate students learning the skills required to understand group process and to function effectively in groups. However, a precedent for using groups in nursing students’ preparation was set when Holm, Lantz, and Severinsson (1998) concluded that their group method—faculty-supervised, 3-semester, process-oriented groups of nursing students—was effective in helping students develop increased empathy and a professional nurse identity. In addition, because of increased collaboration in health care environments, group work as a teaching strategy is needed in nursing education (Kratzke, Melton, & Marshall, 2003).
To better prepare nursing students for group work, a new teaching method was implemented with four different groups of junior-level nursing students enrolled in a clinical psychosocial nursing course. Each student chose to either participate in the group process experience or remain on the clinical unit with the instructor. For students who chose the process group experience, consistent with counseling education, only attendance was reflected in course grades to avoid any perception of subtle exploitation or coercion for self-disclosure (e.g., due to group norms), and thereby enhance learning (Davenport, 2004). The groups met on the students’ assigned clinical day, after the psychiatric unit’s client care was completed.
Each group was facilitated by co-leaders from the counseling psychology doctoral program at another college at the university. A faculty member in that college supervised the co-leaders; as a result, nursing faculty had no access to the content of discussions. Confidentiality was stressed with both the undergraduate and the doctoral students. Members discussed the stress of college life, their inexperience with patients, and course-related concerns. The co-leaders guided the group members to grow professionally (e.g., increase their self-awareness and knowledge of group concepts). For example, co-leaders focused on the pertinent details of the group process by pointing out the use of group roles as they occurred among the members and by noting the development of group norms and the evolution of the group. Leaders modeled therapeutic communication, offered and encouraged feedback among the students, and validated students’ increased recognition of group concepts (e.g., statement of a group norm).
As indicated by statistical analysis of a nurse-developed questionnaire and a counseling group learning measure (Pistole & Filer, 1991), the collaborative experiential group was a valuable teaching method that enhanced learning of specific knowledge and skills. The nursing students gained a better understanding of group process and roles, practice in using and further developing therapeutic communication skills, and increased self-awareness consistent with professional growth. The doctoral students obtained group leadership experience and learned the benefits and processing skills associated with co-leadership. As a teaching method, the group experience modeled respect for and the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, which is beneficial because nursing and psychology professionals often work from a team approach or consult across disciplinary lines. Continuing investigation of this teaching method is warranted.
The findings of this unique group experiential learning method support its effectiveness in improving nurses’ ability to function in groups, while also providing an opportunity for skill development in group leadership for graduate counseling psychology students. Further expansion of this project may focus on graduate students’ level of learning.
- American Nurses Association. 2000. Scope and standards of psychiatricmental health nursing practice. Washington, DC: Author.
- Davenport, DS2004. Ethical issues in the teaching of group counseling. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 29, 43–49. doi:10.1080/01933920490275376 [CrossRef]
- Holm, AK, Lantz, I & Severinsson, E1998. Nursing students’ experiences of the effects of continual process-oriented group supervision. Journal of Nursing Management, 6, 105–113. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2834.1998.00058.x [CrossRef]
- Kneisl, CR, Wilson, HK & Trigoboff, E. 2004. Contemporary & Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
- Kratzke, C, Melton, LE & Marshall, BL2003. Strategies to promote effective group work and critical thinking in the classroom. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 19, 63–67. doi:10.1097/00124645-200303000-00001 [CrossRef]
- Pistole, MC & Filer, RD1991. Evaluating experiential elements and stimulating research in the teaching of group counseling. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 16, 40–45. doi:10.1080/01933929108415585 [CrossRef]