Anyone enrolling in a nursing school does so with the sole intention of attaining the academic and practical qualifications that will enable them reach the ranks of qualified and recognizable nurses in their respective states. Their competence and professionalism is reassuring not only to them but also to the general public who seek their services. While defining preparatory nurse education or preregistration requirements is a simple task, it remains a herculean task evaluating and rating the performance skills of that education. The success of which ensures a generation of competent nursing practitioners.
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It is the drive for the achievement of the latter that has lead to a myriad of proven ways of evaluating nursing students’ performance skills. A lot of effort is put in developing appropriate modes and techniques for assessment by individual institutions. Although the methodologies may differ, the result is the same. With the healthcare environment, constantly changing (Alfes, 2011) no single mode of evaluation is likely to withstand the currents thus educators keep coming up with befitting strategies to go with these. It is required of a student to function in a technologically complex and very sophisticated healthcare field. High-quality care, accountability in patient outcomes and ability to make right clinical judgments are just basic requirements in a today’s nurse. It is in this light that educators challenged to find platforms for students’ practice demands have come up with some very revolutionary evaluation techniques.
Taking into account that students are often plagued by a fear of incompetence brought about by lack of adequate experience, an evaluation technique that gauges anxiety levels in a student essential. This is because anxiety levels in students influence critical clinical decision judgments. A teaching method that is touted as a transgressor of limitations is the use of human patient simulator. The simulator in this case is not so different from the one used in training pilots because it presents the student with a scenario completely similar to a real-life scenario. A common form of simulator used is a mannequin, which is aided by a computer program to simulate functionalities of a real-life human. Complete with arteries and air ways, the human patient simulator (HPS) is able to make breathing sounds, heart beats, pulses and has intravenous access (Shinnick, 2011). Wired to a remote computer it possesses the ability to generate physiological events in the HPS. Thus, from the computer the mannequin can be made to talk, blink or exhibit lifelike actions. With these abilities, a scenario can be provided to a student in which a ‘patient’ shows symptoms of a certain disease or condition of which a student has to make a clinical decision using skills already taught in the curriculum. The case scenario is usually pretested and rehearsed by the instructors and faculty together with the computer controller for a smooth presentation. HPS is an essential tool for enhancing critical thinking as well as clinical judgment when it comes to client care. Although simulation evaluations case anxiety in a student, they work well in boosting a student’s confidence levels involving a client care decisions. Simulations are also effective in that they can be set according to a student’s level of study. Although setting up HPS requires a lot of time and expertise, the underlying benefits will outweigh these shortcomings any time. Another methodology used is the clinical evaluation. This is specifically used to evaluate a student’s level of competence in clinical performance. This mostly involves evaluating a student’s performance according to criteria of behaviors. The results of this method ensure a competent and safe practitioner like when administering medicine or caring for wound clients. The criterion of evaluation is based on a level and degree of learning. The person responsible of evaluation can use descriptors like “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” or even “dependent” or “independent”. The greatest challenge as far as this method is concerned is that it is greatly dependent on the evaluator and a mistake on his/her side can be of great undoing.
Still as much as nursing is mostly practical, a great deal of theoretical knowledge is required in nursing students. The link between practical and theoretical knowledge ensures a process of professional development with an aim of developing skills for learning in nursing practice. Codes of conduct studied in theory is applied and related with those found in clinical practice experience. Most theoretical evaluation is done in assignment format; requirements for grading are given to students in advance. These may be in essays or articles form and they demonstrate the ability of a student to co relate, associate or reflect. This methodology also serves to direct the student to the more important elements of a particular subject.
Looking back at the history of techniques used in evaluating the performance of nursing students, it is important to note that a search for a perfect up to date method has always been the priority. It is through a good evaluation method that professionalism and competency in the field of nursing is upheld. Not only does it appeal to the students to have a good evaluation system but also to other stakeholders in the nursing field. However, a diverse system that works accordingly leaves intact credibility associated with nursing education systems. It is up to faculties then to keep testing various evaluation techniques to determine their robustness and effectiveness.