Ms. Lever is Associate Professor of Nursing, University of Evansville, Evansville, Indiana.
The author has no financial or proprietary interest in the materials presented herein.
Address correspondence to Kathryn Ann Lever, MSN, WHNP-BC, Associate Professor of Nursing, University of Evansville, 1800 Lincoln Avenue, Evansville, IN 47722; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best practices in nursing education support the use of teaching methods that encourage active learning. The Career Clue assignment incorporates strategies to promote active learning, mentoring, and technology. It has been used since 2003 in an entry-level nursing course of a 4-year baccalaureate program. The Career Clue assignment is given to stimulate interest, enthusiasm, and awareness about nursing as a career. The name of the assignment is generated from the idea that many students do not have a clue about all of the options a career in nursing can offer them.
The Career Clue assignment is completed during the first semester of the nursing major, as a course requirement. Each student is given a nursing specialty to research, as well as contact information for a nurse practicing within this field of nursing. Students gather information from their nurse via e-mail and share their findings with peers during classroom presentations. The presenter provides clues to help classmates understand and identify the nursing specialty. This interactive exchange of information among nurses, students, and their peers is what makes this experience unique, fun, and educational. Students learn not only about the specialty of their assigned nurse, but also about the nursing specialties explored by their peers.
Nurse educators are encouraged to use innovative strategies to recruit, retain, and educate students about nursing as a career (National League for Nursing, 2004). Stimulating interest and understanding in didactic courses can be especially challenging when students are undecided about their academic focus or have little knowledge of what is actually involved with the nursing profession. In addition, traditional students enrolled directly from high school are part of the millennial generation and have come to expect immediate gratification and entertainment similar to what they experience when searching the Internet, playing computer games, or instant messaging friends (Coomes & DeBard, 2004; Neuman, 2006; Skiba, 2005).
Teaching strategies should be interactive and promote dialogue among faculty, students, nursing colleagues, and other health care professionals (National League for Nursing, 2004). Approaches directed at recruitment and retention of nursing students often incorporate real nurses as mentors and role models for students. Mentoring between students and practicing nurses can be useful to bridge the gap between scholarly knowledge and application in clinical practice (Block & Sredl, 2006). Mentoring can be accomplished by online communication via e-mail or asynchronous discussion boards (Cahill & Payne, 2006). This method appeals to busy professionals as well as students because it offers flexibility and eliminates barriers such as time and distance.
A creative example of this concept offers group mentoring or e-mentoring via the Internet (Kalisch, Falzetta, & Cooke, 2005). Generated by a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau, and the University of Michigan School of Nursing, volunteer nurse mentors across the country are linked with high school and nursing students ages 15 to 21 to promote interest and increase awareness about nursing as a career. A Web site created specifically for this project also provides information and the opportunity for students to submit questions about nursing. The project coordinator maintains the Web site and compiles questions submitted by students, which are then answered by nurses and posted on the site. Group e-mentoring continues today and has received positive feedback from both students and mentors since its inception in 2003.
One group of nursing educators combined a shadowing experience with online learning to engage students (Lohri-Posey, 2005). An elective course used the WebCT® online system to promote active learning about nursing and health care, professional skills, and the role of the professional nurse for preprofessional nursing students. In addition, a 4-hour shadowing experience with a nurse in a clinical setting helped the student gain a realistic view of nursing practice. The students unanimously recommended the course for use by individuals considering becoming a nurse.
All of these examples demonstrate innovative methods to stimulate interest in a nursing career. The Career Clue experience incorporates similar elements but is unique because of the interactive learning that occurs during classroom presentations about different nursing specialties.
The Career Clue Assignment
This assignment has been used since 2003 with positive responses from faculty, practicing nurses, and students. Nurses were e-mailed in advance of the assignment and agreed to be contacted by a student about their nursing career. Each student was then assigned a nursing specialty to explore during the first few weeks of the first semester of the nursing major. Resources to complete the assignment are supplied via Blackboard®. Specific guidelines, Web sites, and e-mail access to RNs practicing within their assigned nursing specialty are provided. Students gather information about educational background, clientele, practice location, responsibilities, and rewards and challenges inherent to that particular field of nursing. Students submit to the instructor a short written summary of their findings, along with the e-mail response received from their RN. Students share their findings with peers during brief classroom presentations and give clues to help peers identify their mystery career. Prizes are awarded to the students who correctly identify the most careers.
Creativity was encouraged, and many students generated wonderful ways of relaying their findings to classmates. Students have used rhythms, skits, songs, props, posters, or games to provide information about their nursing field. For example, a student who was assigned military nursing asked the class to stand up and march to “left, right, left, right, left,” and then chanted, “I don’t know what you’ve heard/Nursing isn’t for the birds! There are many paths for you/So listen up and I’ll give you a clue!” Another student gave the background about parish nursing in the configuration of The Ten Commandments. The 10 clues were all given in the form of “Thou shall have a BSN and 5 years plus experience in medical-surgical nursing…. Thou shall be an integrator of faith and health.”
Student Feedback and Lessons Learned
Students completed an online evaluation of the Career Clue experience after the classroom presentations were completed. A convenience sample of 128 students enrolled in the course over 4 years successfully completed the evaluation. Evaluation data revealed 97% of students agreed the assignment was helpful in learning about different nursing careers, 93% agreed the assignment would be beneficial for use in future courses, 93% agreed that classroom sharing of information and presentations about nursing careers was worthwhile, and 94% agreed the overall assignment was an excellent learning experience.
Students overwhelmingly reported their favorite aspect of the assignment was learning about different nursing careers during the peer presentations. Many also reported enjoying the creative and imaginative aspect of the classroom presentations and contact with a practicing nurse. Others simply said this was a “fun way to learn about nursing.”
Students’ suggestions for improvement indicated they want their peers to be more creative or have more fun with their classroom presentations. A few recommended working in pairs rather than individually, having the nurses visit the classroom to discuss their specialties, and distributing handouts to peers about the different careers.
The following excerpts taken from voluntary student comments summarized the overall Career Clue experience.
- I learned about nursing careers that I didn’t even know existed!
- It gave me a wider scope of the opportunities in a nursing career.
- I really had no clue what type of nurse I wanted to be before this assignment. Now I have many to choose from.
The assignment, originally designed to stimulate enthusiasm and interest in nursing, has revealed additional benefits. The technological aspects of the assignment encouraged early use and familiarity with campus e-mail and online learning systems for students. Students use active learning strategies when investigating an area of nursing practice and when explaining the role of the nurse in this practice area to their peers. The assignment also promoted mentoring between practicing nurses and students, strengthening of bonds between the nursing program and colleagues in the community and alumni population, and increased socialization between peers and faculty in the course.
On the basis of student feedback since its inception, the Career Clue assignment has been a valuable method for learning about different kinds of nursing careers, generating interest in nursing careers, and encouraging engagement of entry-level students. Student response to the experience has been positive, with few suggestions for changes or improvements. Students liked the personal contact with an RN practicing in the assigned field of nursing and creative methods of presenting material (i.e., clues), and they stated this was a fun and interesting way to learn about different kinds of nursing.
Educators should to continue to use innovative strategies that foster active learning and enthusiasm in young adults considering or pursuing the study of nursing. Successful endeavors, such as the Career Clue experience, can encourage engagement of nursing students while promoting awareness and understanding of the diverse opportunities a nursing career can provide.
- Block, V. & Sredl, D. (2006). Nursing education and professional practice: A collaborative approach to enhance retention. Journal for Nurses in Staff Development, 22, 23–28. doi:10.1097/00124645-200601000-00006 [CrossRef]
- Cahill, M. & Payne, G. (2006). Online mentoring: ANNA connections. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 33, 695–697.
- Coomes, M.D. & DeBard, R. (Eds.). (2004). Serving the millennial generation: New directions for student services. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Kalisch, B.J., Falzetta, L. & Cooke, J. (2005). Group e-mentoring: A new approach to recruitment into nursing. Nursing Outlook, 53, 199–205. doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2004.12.005 [CrossRef]
- Lohri-Posey, B. (2005). Empowering students to choose nursing as a career. Nurse Educator, 30, 95–96. doi:10.1097/00006223-200505000-00004 [CrossRef]
- National League for Nursing. (2004). NLN hallmarks of excellence in nursing education©. Retrieved February 8, 2008, from http://www.nln.org/Excellence/Hallmarks042104.pdf
- Neuman, L.H. (2006). Creating new futures in nursing education: Envisioning the evolution of e-nursing education. Nursing Education Perspectives, 27, 12–15.
- Skiba, D.J. (2005). The millennials: Have they arrived at your school of nursing?Nursing Education Perspectives, 26, 370–371.