Reclaiming our University – and our Nursing programs

Posted on March 27, 2017 by

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Recently I learned about an initiative by faculty at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) to reclaim their University in the more communal sense that an academic environment should be, in response to the increasing corporatization of higher education.  They have published a Manifesto that addresses the purpose of the University, the idea of academic freedom, the necessity of trust, and the nature of education.  The opening paragraph of the manifesto says it well:

We, scholars, students, staff and alumni of the University of Aberdeen, call for fundamental reform of the principles, ethos and organisation of our university, in order (1) that it should be restored to the community to which it belongs and (2) that it can fulfil its civic purpose in a manner appropriate to our times, in the defence of democracy, peaceful coexistence and human flourishing. (https://reclaimingouruniversity.wordpress.com/)

As I read through the Manifesto, my inner voice kept screaming “yes, yes!”  It is a true inspiration, and I can envision many other university faculty around the world developing similar documents – and acting on the ideas!

But as nurse educators, we are also called upon to consider the influence of the corporate and business models that have overtaken not only our education systems, but also our healthcare systems, and the intersection between the two that have eroded the nature of nursing and nursing education.  The original intent that has driven the culture and nature of the academic environment is the freedom and responsibility of faculty to form the curriculum based not only on what the “market” needs and wants, but also on our informed perspectives of what the discipline itself requires, even demands, for best practice.  We need to reclaim our passion for our discipline, and for the values that arise from our commitments as nurses.

But our ability to do this in nursing has been severely undermined.  We now abandon courses and content related to the theories and history of our own discipline, claiming that the priority should be on content and experiences that the “market” demands.  Credentially bodies, as important as they are, primarily influenced by market and business interests, have increasingly driven our curriculum decisions, leaving faculty to abandon what we believe to be in the best interest of the development of expert nurses.  The end result, in my opinion informed by what I have observed, is an increase in nurses who are woefully vulnerable to abandoning fundamental nursing values in favor of the values of other forces in the workplace environment.

So perhaps we need a Manifesto “Reclaiming our Nursing Education” – one that calls for the kinds of values that are already embedded in the Nursing Manifesto, and stating with utter conviction what we believe is required to not only deliver an excellent nursing education to those seeking to join our profession, but also what is needed to model the kind of educational environment that cultivates “democracy, peaceful coexistence and human flourishing.”

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