Service Learning Benefits to Community and Health Care System and Its Challenges In Nursing Education

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Nursing Education and Service Learning Benefits to Community and Health Care System and Its Challenges

Service Learning Benefits to Community and Health Care System and Its Challenges In Nursing Education

Service Learning Benefits to the Community In Nursing Education, Benefits of Service Learning to the Health Care System, Integrating Service Learning into the Curriculum In Nursing Education, Support Structures For Service Learning In Nursing Education, Challenges for Service Learning In Nursing Education, Planning Faculty Development for Service Learning In Nursing Education.

Service Learning Benefits to the Community In Nursing Education

    The community also benefits when colleges and universities include service learning and civic engagement outcomes in their academic programs. For example, Reising et al. (2006b) found that as a result of a service learning project in which nursing students conducted hypertension screening and health counseling, 1 year later the community recipients had made modifications in their health management behaviors such as diet change and weight loss. 

    In another service-learning course, students in a nursing research course established partnerships with community organizations to develop research proposals, some of which led to submission for grant funding (Rash, 2005). 

  Benefits to the community may also include students' increasing awareness of community health needs and an interest in working in community settings (Ligeikis Clayton & Denman, 2005).

Benefits of Service Learning to the Health Care System 

    Although traditional service learning has occurred in community settings, it can also occur within a traditional acute care setting. 

    Service learning benefits the nursing staff because the ideas for projects are initiated by the staff based on their needs and priorities, and implemented in collaboration with the students, resulting in the development of meaningful outcomes such as evidence based patient care protocols and guidelines and improved patient care outcome measures. 

    Hospitals working toward Magnet status can use these projects to provide support for their application for Magnet recognition.

Integrating Service Learning into the Curriculum In Nursing Education

    The Pew Health Professions Commission (1998) identified service learning as a key competency for programs educating health professionals. National organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2008b), the National League for Nursing (2005), and the Institute of Medicine (2010) have noted that nursing curricula should prepare nurses to practice in diverse settings that are global in nature . 

    The IOM report (2010) advocated interdisciplinary learning to facilitate a smooth transition to the workplace, where working as part of an interdisciplinary group is a key skill. Service learning lends itself to interdisciplinary endeavors, and the interdisciplinary nature of the endeavor would enrich and change the experience. 

   Community-based service learning is increasingly being integrated into nursing courses (Gillis & MacLellan, 2013). Some service-learning endeavors are part of a larger consortium. An example is the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), an independent, nonprofit organization that organized the Partners in Caring and Community: Service-Learning in Nursing Education project. 

    The Partners in Caring and Community project works with teams of nursing faculty and students and their community partners to facilitate the integration of service learning into nursing education curricula, increase the understanding and support for it in nursing education, and disseminate new knowledge and information about best practices and models of service learning and nursing education (Campus Community Partners for Health, n.d.).

Support Structures For Service Learning In Nursing Education

    Faculty support is important to cultivating success. Support begins with campus and school administrators who value service learning and will commit resources to its implementation in the curriculum.

   Although universities have embraced service learning, they have been slow to implement support systems needed for effective implementation (Schmidt & Brown, 2008). Faculty can organize a faculty service-learning committee or advisory board to provide needed support. 

    This group could be an invaluable advocate of service learning as a teaching tool. The committee can establish faculty handbooks and guidelines for service learning courses, sponsor lunch-and-learn sessions on service learning for particular departments or the entire college, develop webinars, ensure that faculty receive continuing education units for attending service learning workshops, and organize faculty development opportunities regarding service learning pedagogy (American Association of Community Colleges [AACC], 2010). 

    This committee also encourages the development of interdisciplinary professional relationships and provides an avenue for sharing ideas, successes, and failures. The goal of planning is to work for sustainability of service learning throughout the curriculum. Funding can be obtained from the community, from grant funding available locally and nationally, and often from the college or university itself. 

    Although service learning is not expensive, it does require time for planning and course development and the personnel to make the arrangements. A number of colleges and universities have a service learning office or coordinator. Staff from this office provide assistance in structuring the program, identifying community partners, and placing students according to mutual needs. 

    Integrating service learning experiences into the curriculum requires careful planning. The experience must be developed and resources acquired before the course is offered. Identifying enthusiastic faculty champions and faculty development are keys to success (American Association of Community Colleges, 2010).

Challenges for Service Learning In Nursing Education

    Some of the challenges to implementing service-learning result from ordinary budgetary constraints in higher education. Multiple departments and programs compete for limited resources. Those beginning a service-learning initiative may need to search for external funding sources and rely on the goodwill of faculty members willing to spend extra time learning about service learning and then incorporating it into their courses without extra compensation.

    Institutions that lack a dedicated service-learning office may struggle with organization and effective evaluation strategies. When funding issues prevent the establishment of a service learning office, a service learning council composed of faculty members from each department on campus can provide direction for faculty development, coordinate student learning activities with community agencies, evaluate service-learning experiences, and facilitate the sharing of information.). 

    Convincing faculty members to adopt service learning as an effective pedagogical device can also be a challenge. This resistance is understandable because of the time and effort involved in incorporating it into courses. 

    Faculty members involved in service learning often serve as the best change agents as they extol the benefits of service learning, including increased student engagement in the learning process and increased sense of collegiality because of their intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary activities. 

    Challenges encountered by faculty include time constraints; students' commitments to work and family; and students', faculties, and community partners' heavy workloads. Community partners may struggle with orienting new students each semester and with the lack of students during summer break. 

    There are also challenges when service-learning experiences last more than one semester or students taking multiple courses with service-learning components are to remain at the same community agency to increase continuity.

Planning Faculty Development for Service Learning In Nursing Education

    Planning for a change to service learning begins with faculty development that may be available from the academic institution, workshops, and independent study. These resources will help faculty obtain essential information about how to design and implement service learning. 

    A few of the practical considerations involved in planning include establishing good relationships with community agencies, identifying the types of experiences suitable for the course content, finding agency representative supervisors, structuring the types of activities, and scheduling the activities. Preparation links the service-learning activities to specific learning outcomes and prepares students to perform the activities. 

    The service needs to be challenging, engaging, and meaningful to the students, and it must focus on meeting an actual community need that students can perceive as important and relevant to their own development. Preparation also includes finding agencies for student placement. 

    Students typically involved work in voluntary not-for-profit community or public tax supported service agencies and organizations that provide services that meet people's current needs. Agencies and programs are selected on the basis of their congruence with the academic program or course and student goals and objectives. 

    Faculty must also assess the agency's capacity for students and determine that the students' abilities are a match for the agency's needs. Faculty development provides an explanation of a new pedagogy for many and establishes a common definition and a sound knowledge base. 

    Consultants can be an invaluable aid in this early development process, and many campuses have offices of service learning that can provide or assist with faculty development. It is also helpful for faculty to make contact with faculty in other colleges to identify what others have been doing. The Internet can be a means of making contact with other faculty involved in service learning. 

    Electronic mailing lists are available, and many sources of information that list faculty involved in service learning are available on the Internet. The Internet can also be a source of information about starting service-learning programs, sample course descriptions, syllabi, electronic mailing lists, funding resources, and best practices. 

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