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Nursing Education and Case Studies

Marlene M. Rosenkoetter
Dean and Professor
Medical College of Georgia
Augusta, GA USA

Case studies and the case method have been utilized in nursing programs for nearly as long as the schools have been in existence. Over time, the cases have become considerably more sophisticated, the diagnoses more complex, and the interventions substantially more involved. Yet, the use of cases for the education of nurses as well as a variety of other health care professionals remains an important part of the educational process. Case studies are used to present a comprehensive view of a patient/family, while giving the students an opportunity to offer different perspectives on the assessment and different alternatives with regard to care. Case studies are an excellent approach to assist students with development of their critical thinking skills and with work on communication techniques with classmates and faculty. Problem-based learning is a particular approach which utilizes the principles of case methods in discussions and how to illustrate how specific issues are resolved. This approach can be in leadership and management courses, when applying theory to practice, in discussions of professional nursing issues, or when examining clinical topics concerning patients and their families.

Students can even be placed in small groups or in pairs in order to address these issues. As they progress through the nursing program, they can be taught to be fairly skilled in the use of case studies in order to be able to use them as graduates in the teaching of others who will be reporting to them. There has been considerable success with using case studies in two-way synchronous distance education settings. Being geographically separate does not preclude the discussion of a case and the use of actual or simulated patients situations for educational purposes. In fact, students can be drawn together more closely through their interactions on a given topic.

The School of Nursing at the Medical College of Georgia has a highly sophisticated and refined curriculum that relies heavily on problem-based learning. On the senior level in the undergraduate program, for example, the didactic portion of the major clinical course is all based on case studies through problem-based learning. Students are taught to think through situations, applying theory and concepts, and reach conclusions.

Having joined MCG as the Dean in January 2002, it has been exciting to watch the changes unfold and the energy of the faculty as we move forward. The School has undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs as well as a program in nurse anesthesia. There are currently 3 campuses in addition to the one in Augusta and a fifth campus planned to open next year. Distance education technology and online coursework are readily available to the students, and are relied on quite extensively to reach students throughout the state of Georgia. As a health science university, MCG, and the School of Nursing, are focusing on clinical research and the scholarly productivity of faculty,- both founded on quality teaching. The major thrust of the university's research is cancer research and treatment, with cardiovascular, neurological and infectious diseases close behind. The mission is:

To improve health and reduce the burden
of illness in society by discovering,
disseminating, and applying knowledge
of human health and disease.

The School supports this mission through research, quality education and the specialized care of patients in health care settings. I am delighted to have joined the team at MCG and look forward as we grow and expand the School together.