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The evaluation of a fourteen week continuing education course in critical care nursing Robinson, Ruth Elizabeth

Abstract

This study reports on an evaluation of the first of two fourteen week continuing education courses in critical care nursing. It focuses on the thirteen nurses who completed the course, examining trends that might be used as predictors of performance in continuing education. The rationale for this approach was that short courses often intensify a learning experience, and because of time restrictions they are presented in a relatively structured way. This particular course was extended in time and also added a clinical learning experience. The study looks at the method and techniques used to determine whether prior knowledge of course participants could affect these, and whether a structured approach can meet the learning requirements of the course participants. The methodology employed evaluation instruments designed for the course which measured performance. This included a knowledge pretest and posttest, a clinical performance appraisal, and program evaluation questionnaires. The pretest-posttest design used the same questions on both tests in order to measure knowledge gains. The pretest was administered on the first day of the course. The posttest was given on the second last day. Clinical performance was assessed on an ongoing basis and a final assessment and score was determined in the last week of the course. A measure of confidence was determined along with each written test by asking the nurse to indicate her degree of confidence in each answer she selected. In addition, a psychological measure of belief in locus of control (the Rotter I-E Scale), was administered at the beginning of the course. This measure determines the extent to which a nurse might take responsibility for her own learning, and whether that would ultimately affect her performance in a continuing education course. Analysis of the data revealed certain factors which affected gains in knowledge as a result of participation in the course, and which could be used as predictors of performance. In particular, age, background work experience and the locus of control concept significantly relate to knowledge gains. Younger nurses achieved greater gains. Nurses who had had more experience in critical care nursing performed better than those who had had little or no experience. No significant correlations were found among these variables which influenced clinical performance scores. Confidence in answers given on written tests was found to positively correlate with the actual score obtained. The implications for the findings of this study are important to continuing education course planners. Based on the significant predictors of performance, selection of students for courses can be made on these factors. Age and background experience are known prior to the course and should be considered when making selection. The pretest performance revealed areas of strength and weakness in the group and could be used effectively for planning the development and emphasis of course content. The locus of control concept deserves further study to determine its influence on course outcomes. The results of this study revealed that the greater the belief in internal control of reinforcement (one is responsible for what happens), the greater the gain achieved in the course. Further study as to how or why this influence exists could be very helpful to the field of continuing education. As a beginning attempt at planning for more effective continuing education, this study points out significant areas for further investigation. In itself, it also has assisted in the planning for the second course in critical care nursing, as the evaluation for the course revealed areas of weakness in the presentation used for the first course.

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