Courses, laboratory work and practical experience, while continuing to focus on nursing skills and health issues, also are emphasizing qualities in a nurse such as patience, humility, trust, hope, courage and honesty.
"We see caring as an expression of nursing. We want to teach our students to be caring," said Joyce Rhegness, professor of nursing at Owens Community College for 22 years.
The School of Nursing at Owens Community College is the only two-year college in Ohio now using this "caring curriculum" in its entirety. The first students taught under this new program will graduate from Owens in May.
This curriculum is based on the theory of "nursing as caring" developed by nursing authors Anne Boykin and Savina Schoenhofer. Last year, Rhegness and Mary Thibault, professor of nursing at Owens for 22 years, traveled to Florida State University to study how the curriculum is used.
The framework for the program is those five attributes of caring: conscience, commitment, competence, compassion and confidence. Nursing professors daily relate how those qualities can be put into action for patients.
For instance, the idea of caring is expressed in classes by the teaching methods of faculty members. "A course is not a lecture, cut and dried, but there's more dialogue, and learning from each other. The students learn how to collaborate in their work," Rhegness explained.
"Storytelling" also is a primary part of instruction, she said, and faculty members are encouraged to teach through illustrations of their own experiences in hospitals, nursing homes, private offices or public health agencies.
The idea of caring in nursing is more than just an attitude, Thibault said. It affects the daily duties of nurses and their role within the health care system.
The traditional practice was to assign a nurse to completely care for five or six patients, which involved everything from bathing to walling to feeding to providing medicine for them.
"The new concept is the nurse is more of an overseer, focusing time on health teaching and wellness, and on assessment and determining the patient's needs," she explained. "They care for the whole patient and they try to educate them."
The caring curriculum still contains the basics of nursing, which includes pharmacology, pathophysiology, child and adult health issues and nursing ethics. But it also differs from the traditional curriculum because all skills a nurse must learn are taught in the first semester, leaving three more semesters to practice and implement those skills.
"For example, it used to be that IVs were never taught until the third semester and now thatís done during the first semester," Rhegness said. "Otherwise, we've found the students spend their time worrying about mastering the techniques and they tend to forget about patients' needs. This way, they can focus on caring for the patients."
When College faculty presented the caring curriculum concept to the Ohio State Board of Nursing for its approval, they were met with encouragement - yet also surprise.
"I think they wondered if a two-year college could do this," Rhegness said. "They told us we're in unchartered waters. " Since then, other nursing schools in Ohio have adopted portions of the curriculum, but none to the extent that Owens Community College employs it.
Janell Lang, dean of Health Technologies, said Owens Community College is proud to be forging the way in pursuing this special path of health education.
"This new curriculum is a departure from the medical model that has been traditionally used by nursing schools," Lang said. "The caring curriculum really focuses on the patient as a human being."
Thibault also said the faculty and staff of the School of Nursing is excited about this curriculum and they believe the nursing students have responded very well to it.
"We're really proud of it," she said. "We think our students are happier and not as stressed. This curriculum is not easier, but it's different in the focus and attitude. I think they feel this is a very special program they have a chance to be part of."