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Program Information: Conceptual Framework

The Calvin College Department of Nursing has seven major concepts around which the curriculum is organized. These seven concepts include:

  • Reformed Christian worldview
  • health promotion/health protection
  • lifespan
  • partnership
  • community based nursing
  • roles of the professional nurse
  • core virtues

Each of these seven concepts is intimately connected with the philosophical beliefs regarding person, environment, health, nursing, teaching and learning and outlined in the Department's philosophy statement.

The Reformed Christian worldview provides the framework within which the entire curriculum is offered and it informs all of our concepts and courses. The Reformed Christian worldview holds that Jesus Christ is Lord over all things. It has as its central themes creation, fall, redemption, vocation, the kingdom of God, and the hope of Shalom (Plantinga, 2001).

Building on the Calvin College core curriculum, students are introduced to a Reformed Christian interpretation of the metaparadigm concepts of the discipline of nursing. They are then encouraged to explore the implications of this worldview for the nurse forming partnerships and assuming multiple roles for the purpose of promoting and protecting the health of persons across the lifespan, their families, and their communities. The vocation of nursing is presented as an opportunity to work toward Shalom within the kingdom of God.

The curriculum conceptualizes the discipline of nursing as focusing its efforts on promoting and protecting health. Such a focus is appropriate given our belief that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and thus we have a responsibility to care for them. The nurse's role in promoting and protecting the health of persons across the lifespan as well as their families and communities is explored in all four semesters of the curriculum. Health promotion is understood as the effort to maintain and improve an already healthy state (Armentrout, 1998). It is directed toward increasing the ability for self-care and the level of wellness of individuals and groups across the life-span. Health promotion is motivated by the desire to increase wellness and maximize human potential (Pender, 1996). The related concept of health protection or prevention is also a major focus.

Health protection consists of measures that protect one from disease and involves the effort one makes to protect oneself or others from specific diseases and their consequences (Armentrout, 1998). Health protection can be further delineated into three levels - primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary protection focuses on preventing a problem before it occurs, secondary protection consists of measures that focus on early diagnosis and prompt treatment, while tertiary prevention deals with rehabilitation of a person with a disease. The explicit health promotion and health protection needs of pregnant women, infants, children, adolescents, young adults, middle age adults, older adults as well as families and communities are delineated in the courses comprising the nursing major.

The nurse's efforts at health promotion and health protection are directed toward persons across the lifespan. Based upon our philosophical beliefs about the nature of the person, the lifespan approach entails a consideration of persons from conception to natural death. The curriculum provides exposure to all segments of the lifespan with a view to what has gone before and where the individual will move from that point. Students begin their study of nursing care across the lifespan with basic mental health concepts that will influence how the nurse approaches all health promotion/health protection endeavors. Following this, students care for pregnant women, infants, and children who are generally considered to be healthy. They move on to care for young and middle age adults who have greater needs for both health promotion and health protection and end with the provision of complex care for older adults with multiple health protection needs.

Given the beliefs of the faculty regarding persons as image bearers of God who have inherent worth, the concept of partnership becomes essential. A partnership is defined as a close, mutual cooperation between parties having common interests, responsibilities, privileges and power (Community Campus Partnerships for Health). Such mutual cooperation characterizes the nurse-client relationship as together the two pursue the goal of promoting and protecting health.

The vehicle used by the professional nurse to deliver health promotion and health protection to individuals, families and communities is community based nursing. Community based nursing care can be defined as nursing care directed toward individuals and families within a community. It is designed to meet needs of people where they live, work, and go to school, and as they move between and among healthcare settings. The emphasis is on the provision of comprehensive, coordinated and continuous care (Hunt & Zurek, 1997; Stanhope & Lancaster, 2000). A community based curriculum assumes an egalitarian relationship or partnership between the nurse and the client and necessitates that students have experiences providing health care in settings such as day care centers, schools, community health centers, malls, churches, places of business, client homes as well as in hospitals. Based upon these community based experiences, students progress to providing community focused care where the community as a whole is the client to whom health promotion and health protection efforts are directed.

The relationship between student and faculty should also be centered on the concept of partnership. The teaching-learning endeavor implies a cooperative effort for the purpose of imparting knowledge of the discipline of nursing. Students and faculty alike have a unique set of responsibilities in this partnership aimed at the acquisition of key concepts of health promotion and health protection of individuals across the lifespan, their families and their communities.

The multifaceted role of the professional nurse is developed throughout the four semesters of the nursing major. Students develop the various aspects of the nurse's role including caregiver, teacher, researcher, advocate, change agent, and collaborator with increasingly complex segments of the lifespan. In the final semester, students further expand their conceptualization of this role by assuming challenging leadership/management responsibilities. Thus, students gain a comprehensive sense of the nurse's role in designing, providing, and managing the care of clients.

Just as the nursing curriculum equips students with the knowledge and skills required for a life of Christian service as a professional nurse, the core virtues will create within students the inclination to practice in such a manner. The core virtues can be understood as "settled dispositions to feel and to act in certain ways" and include diligence, patience, intellectual honesty, courage, charity, creativity, empathy, humility, stewardship, compassion, justice, faith, hope, and wisdom (An Engagement with God's World: The Core Curriculum of Calvin College, p.33). The core virtues are woven into each course of the curriculum as students consider their relevance in such contexts as the formation of partnerships, the design of a compassionate health protection intervention for a frail older adult, the approach taken with diverse communities in need of health care, or the assumption of the role of leader/manager. Similarly, faculty strive to model these core virtues and incorporate them into the teaching-learning partnership that they establish with students.

  • An Engagement with God's World: the Core Curriculum of Calvin College. (1999). Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Printing Service.
  • Armentrout, G. (1998). Community based nursing: Foundations for practice. Stamford, CT: Appleton & Lange.
  • Community campus partnerships for health: Principles of partnership. (2001). [On-line]. Available:
  • Hunt, R., & Zurek, E.L. (1997). Introduction to community based nursing. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
  • Pender, N.J. (1996). Health promotion in nursing practice. Stamford, CT: Appleton & Lange.
  • Plantinga, C. (2001). Telling the glory of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Printing Services.
  • Stanhope, M., & Lancaster, J. (2000). Community and public health nursing, 5th Ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott.