Using QSEN to Get Off the Teaching Hamster Wheel

Submitted by: Nancy Ebersole PhD, RN, Marion Frost DNP, RN and Pamela Delis PhD, RN

Salem State University


The students are so excited to be going to clinical, simulation, and doing active learning projects. They have developed their own groups for studying, getting to and from clinical, etc. Life is great until they realize that they have reached the point in their academic studies where they must take their final writing course, an evidence-based practice course, in order to earn their BSN. Suddenly their enthusiasm turns to dread, and anxiety replaces their aura of confidence. We as faculty were faced with breathing new life into this writing requirement and QSEN provided the focus for identifying strategies that are presently transforming this course.

A deep-dive into evidence-based practice takes place in our nursing research course. It is also the third in the required sequence of writing courses within the curriculum. Editing a paper is not met with the same enthusiasm as a clinical course and we knew we had to rethink our strategy of putting our students on this hamster wheel of writing and rewriting.

We recognized that having the students work together would get them more focused on the assignments and the objective of sustained engagement in the writing process. It didn’t take long to realize that the QSEN competencies of Teamwork & Collaboration, along with Quality Improvement, would provide us with the focus to reformat this course.

Teamwork and collaboration:  In keeping with the criteria for this writing intensive course we added peer reviews of each other’s writing.  This required helping the students to value not only their writing but also that of their classmates. They had to deliver their critique of someone else’s work and also figure out how to receive a critique in a way that helps them with their own writing. Additionally faculty had to collaborate with students to ensure they knew the expectations of the assignment for writing their own paper.

Quality improvement: Two levels of quality improvement occurred, one at the course level, and one at the student level.  At the course level, we determined that restructuring the rubrics was in order. We reconstructed the rubric to model for students the need for structure when doing the evaluation, and provide a process for measuring what has been done, determining the outcome of whether their peer has met the desired outcome, and then providing the feedback to create the change which is a higher quality written paper.  Faculty teaching this course must instruct the students regarding how to use the rubric and to communicate in a collaborative and supportive manner. Last, but not least, faculty must emphasize that success is within reach! At the student level, the quality of their writing has improved through the use of both faculty and peer review.  They are also learning the often very difficult process of critiquing another’s work and gracefully accepting constructive criticism.

Informal review of this newly constructed course has been positive.  Most students are remarking that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.  They even stated that the peer reviews of other students’ papers helped them to formulate their own!

Serving the needs of our students is first and foremost however making changes to something that we as educators are comfortable with can seem daunting. We turned to QSEN to provide direction for us and the results are remarkable. Looking at this nursing research course through the lens of the competencies showed us a perspective we had not considered. It even got us, as faculty off our individual hamster wheels and onto a team that is serving our students very well.