Moving from training to educating

More and more discussion is happening about the words we use in nursing. There are many words we need to move away from or change, and it will likely not happen in my lifetime. We are, however, making progress, and that’s what truly matters. Nursing faculty who teach their students more effective, helpful, and empowering messages are making a difference. Articles that focus on (and use!) strengths-based, person-centered language are moving the needle, as they say.

In addition to compliance and adherence, which Jacqueline Fawcett wrote about recently, training is a word that is prevalent in nursing. It’s time to change that. I often say, “we train animals; we educate people.”

Right now, nursing’s world is being rocked by COVID-19. We’re hearing many stories about PPE, which fit in with the training vs. educating question. Nurses are trained in the use of PPE, likely from their very first day. They are told how to put them on, take them off, perform tasks while wearing PPE, and so on. While they may get a little background on stopping the spread of infection through using these precautions, I’m guessing it really is training. When it comes to caring for patients who are sick and isolated; however, nurses call on their education. They use all five patterns of knowing (empiric, aesthetic, ethical, personal, and emancipatory) (Carper, 1978; Chinn & Kramer, 2018) to provide the best and most comprehensive care possible despite the horrific conditions surrounding them. Nurses are comforting those who are dying alone, and administering medications and ventilation to those who are struggling to breathe. Those skills are not the result of training. They come from being taught, supported, and guided, both in the classroom and in the clinical setting.

My work is in diabetes care and education. Training is a word that is prevalent in the diabetes arena. In fact, while diabetes professionals prefer and typically say, diabetes self-management education, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) insists on calling it diabetes self-management training. I’ve noticed that as a professional group, we seem to have given up on trying to change that.

The reason it matters in diabetes is that we are working with human beings. Training means basically telling someone to do something a certain way. Like I mentioned earlier, we train animals. Animals don’t understand the rationale behind performing a trick or coming when they are called. Teaching means to explain, support, and educate. It is much broader than training, and it leads to autonomy, understanding, and engagement, rather than compliance or nonadherence. Humans not only have the capacity to understand, they deserve to know the why, what, and how.

The reason it matters in nursing, is that it’s the subtle difference between a profession and a trade. Nurse scholars have been asking whether or not nursing is an applied science, a basic science (Barrett, 2017) or a science at all (Whall, 1993). We’ve been asking what sets us apart from other health professionals. We’ve wondered why other professions don’t use or reference our knowledge base.

Peggy Chinn, in her keynote address at last year’s Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective, Past and Future conference, stated that it’s time to examine our own assumptions and actions (Chinn, 2019). When we refer to being trained as a nurse, or having been trained at a particular school, what are the underlying assumptions? Do we really see nursing as a trade, with trained workers? Or do we see ourselves as professionals who are educated and have a distinct body of knowledge that prepares us to work autonomously?

If we ever hope to change the messages in nursing and health, we have to start with ourselves. We have an opportunity to lead by example, and state proudly that we are educated, informed, and engaged in a valuable profession. We teach future nurses to also engage in the discipline, and we teach patients to engage in their health and well-being – at whatever level that is possible.

Transitioning from training to educating is consistent with caring (Chinn & Falk-Rafael, 2018; Newman, Sime, & Corcoran-Perry, 1991; Watson, 1997), humanism (Paterson & Zderad, 1976), empowerment (Funnell, 1991) and many other nursing concepts. Please join me in removing the word and the mentality of training from our messaging in nursing. Let’s educate instead.

 

References

Barrett, E.A.M. (2017). Again, what is nursing science? Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(2), 129-133.

Carper, B.A. (1978). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 1(1), 13-24.

Chinn, P.L. (2019, March). Keynote Address: The Discipline of Nursing: Moving Forward Boldly. Presented at “Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective, Past and Future,” Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Retrieved from https://nursology.net/2019-03-21-case-keynote/

Chinn, P.L. & Falk-Rafael, A. (2018). Embracing the focus of the discipline of nursing: Critical Caring Pedagogy. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50(6), 687-694.

Chinn, P.L. & Kramer, M.K. (2018). Knowledge development in nursing: Theory and process. Elsevier.

Funnell M.M. , Anderson, R.M. , Arnold, M.S. , Barr, P.A., Donnelly, M., Johnson, P.D., Taylor-Moon, D., & White, N.H. (1991). Empowerment: An idea whose time has come in diabetes education. The Diabetes Educator, 17, 37-41.

Newman, M.A., Sime, A.M., & Corcoran-Perry, S.A. (1991). The focus of the discipline of nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 14(1), 1-6.

Paterson, J. G., & Zderad, L. T. (1976). Humanistic nursing. Wiley.

Watson, J. (1997). The theory of human caring: Retrospective and prospective. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10(1), 49-52.

Whall, A.L. (1993). Let’s get rid of all nursing theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 6(4), 164-165.

Inspired by Virginia Henderson

Henderson when she was a research associate at Yale (from https://nurseslabs.com/virginia-henderson/)

I first met Virginia Henderson when I was a student at Yale School of Nursing. She was a guest in one of our courses, and she started the class by saying, “I’m a million years old and deaf as a doornail, so speak up!” She was a force, and I loved her from the start. I had the opportunity to meet with Virginia at her home in New Haven, CT, where she showed a group of us her porcelain box collection. She even gave me one! Virginia was at our graduation from YSN in 1993 – in full academic regalia. The last time I saw Virginia was at her home in a retirement community in Connecticut. I consider myself fortunate to have spent time with such an influential nurse. Although I had no idea at the time, her work and thoughts on nursing shaped my own. Her definition of nursing

The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge. And to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible.

resonates with me because in my work with people who have diabetes I see the need to help people toward independence. Diabetes and other chronic diseases require knowledge, skills, and understanding so that people can make daily decisions and perform daily tasks to manage their disease and live well. There are times when people need more – education, direct care, or support – and times when they can function independently. The goal is always to help people toward independence and away from a mentality of “compliance” or “adherence.” I think Virginia would support the language movement in diabetes, where we are working hard to get away from judgmental, provider-centric language and move toward person-centered and strengths-based messages.

I also identify with Virginia’s beliefs on nursing as a discipline with a distinct body of knowledge and her emphasis on nursing education and nursing research. Ironically, I was a student at Yale School of Nursing and now teach at Teachers College Columbia University. Both schools had an impact on and were influenced by Virginia Henderson. It’s amazing to me that I have felt her presence throughout my career, despite not being directly connected to her work.

I sometimes wonder what Virginia would think if she were alive today. Is her definition of nursing being upheld? What would she think of nursing practice, nursing education, and nursing research? Are we honoring her legacy in our work today? It’s important for nurses to be aware of those who’ve gone before us, their work, and their influence on our discipline. Some of those nurses are still with us, and my hope is that we will learn from them and be shaped by them as we move nursing forward. When we practice, teach, and study, how often do we think about our own definition of nursing? Are we being true to that definition?