Teaching to Principles, Nursing Education and Social Media…

Many years ago when I was an idealistic young nursing student, I remember an instructor telling me that the goal of nursing education was to teach students principles. She went on to say that in our careers no two clinical situations will be the same. Therefore it is more important that a nurse can apply principles that can be used in any situation. An example of this is surgical asepsis ( basically how to keep sterile materials sterile while performing procedures the the germ infested realm of the average hospital. For those who are inclined the principles of medical asepsis can be found here.)

My instructor went on to give give an example of performing a dressing change. Not every dressing will be a neat and tidy surgical incision. Some will be deep, nasty and tunneling. Often times in the more shall we say inhospitable regions of the human body. I believe her point was this, applying the principles of medical asepsis to different situations is a valuable and important skill.

Flash forward to three days ago. I’m sitting in my basement watching From Knowledgeable to Knowledge- Able by Dr. Michael Wesch. It was this example from the winter of 2002 that came flooding back to my mind. It had nothing to do with social media or the transformation of adult post-secondary education. It had nothing to do with the content of Dr. Wesch’s Ted Talk, but that example popped into my head and stayed there. In the winter of 2002 as I sat in that class room I had no smartphone or laptop connecting me to the internet ( I had a Nokia cellphone but nobody called me on it and it was only good for playing space invaders between classes) I had lose leaf paper, a clipboard and a bic pen. It struck me when Dr.Wesch that students today have access to “nearly the entire body of human knowledge” through access to the internet.

My colleagues often joke that a person could essentially attend nursing school on Youtube.  In 2002 if I wanted to learn about medical asepsis I had a couple options, 1) Muddle through it using a texbook or 2) Take a course on microbiology and nursing practice. Now I can search for “principles of surgical asepsis” on Youtube and I get 890 results! Of course these results will vary in perspective and quality but they will none the less give a student an idea of the subject matter.

My wife ( who is also a nurse ) often discuss how much easier our school experience would have if we had access to online resources like Youtube and Google scholar . I remember using Google scholar for the first time and thinking to myself, I type it in and full text articles just pop up! To a twenty year old I would have looked like a movie goer watching the Wizard of Oz seeing color on film for the first time.

What I’m trying to get at is, just because connecting to information for students is simple, it does not necessarily make sifting through available information easy. Dr. Wesche   addresses this in this Ted Talk when he talks about how technology makes it easy for students to connect, but sustained meaningful collaboration and communication takes sustained effort and practice.

A Vision of Students Today makes some very compelling observations  about the experience post-secondary students. Although it does not address these realities from the perspective of nursing education, it was interesting for me to consider what this could mean for nursing education.

This video addresses the authoritative nature of post-secondary education. This perspective is very much in line with my experience as a student in nursing  school. However, as mentioned before, access to digital information and technology has impacted the dissemination of this information. By in large, if you can operate a search engine you can access information that will give you at least a basic footing in the knowledge base. Getting back to the concept of teaching to principles I mentioned earlier, I think it is important for instructors to help students to apply principles that allow them to identify good sources of information. We do this with students when we teach academic writing. How do you identify reputable sources for scholarly work? Perhaps the same work could be done to help students wade through the droves of online information they have access to. I think this is something akin to what Dr. Wesche addresses when he talks about developing the skill of being “Knowledge-Able.”

Most of the literature I have encountered regarding social media and nursing education has to do with managing best practices for students while on social media.

This is an important aspect of professional development for new nurses. However, watching Dr. Wesche’s Ted Talk got me thinking. How might we move beyond treating social media as something that students need to manage to examining how we might use social media as a tool to enhance learning for nursing students? I don’t know what that would look like. I can say that learning to use social media as a means of adult education has been a bit daunting. Learning the difference between what I thought social media was and what it’s actual capabilities are has been a overwhelming. I imagine other instructors may feel the same way. This may contribute to the reluctance of some faculty to adopt social media into their teaching practice. I will mention as well that perhaps I made a set of assumptions about how well versed students are in terms of the use of social media ( a thank you to Kelsie for pointing the out!). At any rate, I think our responsibility as nursing faculty is first to examine our own thoughts and assumptions about the use of social media within the context of nursing education. Then we can begin to examine different forms of social media as a tool for enhancing our teaching practice.

This may be easier said then done. On some level it would involve embracing a change in the more traditional modalities associated with nursing education. Ideally, I think going through this process would help us develop our ability to adapt to and use social media and eventually help us to identify principles for effective use of social media along with our students.

This skill development of using social media and online resources has ethical implications once students graduate. The same online sources and platforms we must become comfortable with are the same sources clients may access to answer their own healthcare questions. Man oh man that is another blog post for another day. In conclusion I think nursing instructors have a responsibility to explore the use of social media in nursing education. I don’t believe it is going anywhere and to not utilize it would be to ignore a very potent tool for learning.  Although it may be a steep learning curve, this process could result in developing principles for effective use of social media and online resources in their nursing practice.




4 thoughts on “Teaching to Principles, Nursing Education and Social Media…

  1. I also think it’s amazing how much has changed since we were in university. I often wonder how many students actually use the library for resources while writing papers or if they find all of their information online now. I think it is amazing that students have all of this information right at their fingertips. I wonder if at some point hard copies of books will be on existent and everything in digital form.


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