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Department Programs

Nursing Department Writing Program

I. Compliance with Goals of the College Academic Writing Program

Introduction:  Nursing faculty members attempt to be responsive to the current needs of society and the profession of nursing.  Major forces in the nursing and health care community, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) criteria for accreditation, and a Reformed perspective, assist us in shaping the writing program in the Department of Nursing.

As faculty members we believe that graduates of a Christian liberal arts college must have a broad vision of their vocation and their role as members of society.  We are educating our students not only as members of the nursing profession, but also as members of the world community, working to build Shalom, in lifelong Christian service to God and to others.  Our graduates will have memberships in many different communities, not just the nursing community.  Graduates of the Calvin College Department of Nursing should therefore, be able to write with purpose and commitment, demonstrating ownership of their ideas. We should be assisting them in finding their voices and to communicate with conviction and emotion.

Our desire is to prepare entry level baccalaureate nursing graduates with the skills and abilities necessary not only to function, but to excel and provide leadership in their profession. Nurses require excellent communication skills, written, oral and visual.  They must communicate with different groups and other members of the health care team, as well as clients.  They must be able to advocate effectively for their clients.  

As nurses move into more community based settings and function in more independent professional roles, we believe that effective communication skills are more critical than ever to our graduates’ successes in their vocations. At times it is the nurse’s role to provide a voice for the ‘voiceless’ in advocating for justice particularly in the provision of community based care with underserved populations.
Graduates’ ideas should incorporate the core virtues integrated throughout their entire educational experience at the college. 

Rhetorical competencies in the Nursing Major:  The AACN provides criteria for baccalaureate graduates’ competencies in communication.  These competencies include written, oral and visual communication with a variety of audiences.  The Calvin College nursing faculty members identified a program objective for communication skills: graduates will “communicate effectively in partnerships with diverse individuals, families, communities and in collaboration with other health care professionals.” 

Based on the competencies listed below, the nursing department identified types of communication that will assist our graduates in achieving the desired outcomes:

  1. Communicate effectively in a variety of written and spoken formats.
  2. Produce clear, accurate and relevant writing
  3. Appropriately, accurately and effectively communicate with diverse groups and disciplines using a variety of strategies.
  4. Express one’s self using a variety of media in a variety of contexts.
  5. Elicit and clarify client preferences and values
  6. Demonstrate communication skills during assessment, intervention, evaluation and teaching.
  7. Thoroughly and accurately document interventions and nursing outcomes.
  8. Provide relevant and sensitive health education information and counseling to clients
  9. Adapt communication skills to patients with special needs, e.g. sensory or psychological disabilities.
  10. Communicate with other health team members in a variety of contexts:
    1. Serve as the client’s advocate
    2. Establish and maintain effective working relationships within an interdisciplinary team
    3. Delegate and supervise the performance of nursing interventions.
    4. Work in interdisciplinary teams to make ethical decisions regarding the application of technologies and the acquisition of data

Frequency:  Students in nursing write weekly during their clinical experiences.  They document on the client record, nursing care plans and write reflection papers.  Students also write self-evaluations of their communication skills at several points during each semester. Rhetorical skills are evaluated and assigned a clinical grade during and at the conclusion of each clinical course.  Other rhetorical assignments during the semester are part of the course grade in nursing theory courses. Students typically have 2-3 formal or informal assignments for each semester.  During semesters with 2 content areas (a six week theory unit) students may have 4 or more writing assignments over the entire semester.

Feedback:  Faculty members provide detailed feedback to students weekly on their clinical documentation, nursing care plans and reflection papers.  Some written and presentation assignments in the major are designed to be done in pairs or in small groups in order to promote peer discussion and collaboration.

Variety:   Nursing students are exposed to a variety of rhetorical skills in the nursing major.  Formal papers and use of health related data bases are required each semester in the nursing major.  Types of writing/communication include but are not limited to:

  • Nursing care plans
  • Reflective writing based on clinical experiences
  • Evaluation of web-based materials (health care)
  • Self-evaluations of clinical performance
  • Written case studies (less formal format used)
  • Organizational communication (Leadership and Management)
  • Group process
  • Creation of educational materials and presentations (may also be bilingual depending on community sites)
  • Poster presentations to hospital staff members
  • Power points presentation or other presentations to neighborhood and community groups.

II. Integration throughout the nursing major.

 Expectations for rhetorical competencies develop and increase across the four semesters of the nursing major. Nursing is an upper division major (Junior and Senior year, 4 semesters) and so we rely on previous core and other courses in the college to assist in building written, oral and visual communication skills.  We attempt to build on material taught in Eng 101 and RIT as well as CAS course work.  Pre-nursing students write science lab reports that are consistent with reports required in nursing.  Faculty members encourage students to use library facilities and research librarians for assistance in accessing materials.  Some students limit their research to journals that are available only on-line.  We encourage students to become familiar with access through interlibrary loan.  Many journals in nursing are highly specialized and are not available within our library. We encourage students to begin major research papers early in order to utilize several different reference resources, interlibrary loan and the Rhetoric Center.      

Students are introduced in the beginning semester of the program to research and writing in a style consistent with other professional nursing writing. A beginning level course assignment is a formal research paper in APA format with a student partner.  Beginning students are purposely paired for this process to promote discussion and give feedback to one another as they write the paper. 

The second and third semester students continue to develop professional writing skills.  Second semester students write case study analyses and critique a qualitative research article.  These 2 assignments are more informal in nature, but clear and accurate writing is expected.

Third semester students write a traditional 6-8 page research paper that is typical of papers written in the profession. Students receive feedback on a brief outline of their chosen topic(s) with faculty guidance for research materials and on the structure and direction of the writing if needed.  Students are strongly encouraged to use library resources and the rhetoric center for the development of this paper. 

By the end of the 4 semesters almost all students are preparing papers that are relevant to the profession of nursing and are clearly and accurately written. Students must produce acceptable papers in order to successfully complete at least 2 courses in the final semester.  Students write a research critique of a quantitative research article with a student partner in order to provide peer feedback and to learn from one another.  Several of the assignments from the fourth semester and the capstone course are used as outcomes measures for the nursing major such as a  Philosophy of Nursing paper, and a Comparison of Community- focused and Community based Nursing Care Delivery both formal papers.

Clinical writing
During the first semester clinical course students begin to write the most frequently used document in professional clinical practice, a client centered nursing care plan.  They continue to develop care planning skills over the next semesters in the major.  In the second and third semesters students write care plans on a weekly basis and faculty provide feedback on the accuracy and clarity of the writing. By the time of the clinical experiences in their final 2 semesters, students are expected to document these plans on the official client record.  During the 3rd semester they receive some faculty assistance, but by the final semester perform this independently, perhaps with minimal guidance from their preceptor nurses. 

Oral and Visual Rhetoric
In the first semester, students present findings of a nursing research article to their peers in the classroom setting.  They are encouraged to develop their presentation skills in a non threatening environment. They also prepare a community health resources poster which they present to their classmates. During the following semesters students are encouraged to develop these skills with short classroom presentations and by leading clinical conferences. During the final year students expand their role to communicate effectively with the entire health team. Small groups prepare and present a seminar to their classmates and faculty member during their capstone course.  Students also present the findings of their poster presentations to hospital staff members and to their college peers and other faculty members at a Calvin College poster presentation session.  Students learn about and practice skills in group process and organizational communication while in the classroom and in the clinical area.             

 III. Core offerings:  Not applicable

IV. Faculty awareness and development:  With many new full-time and part-time faculty members in the department we need to be certain that all members feel comfortable and qualified in evaluating writing in the nursing major. When new faculty members are oriented and begin teaching in the Nursing Department the chair of the departmental curriculum committee will review the written guidelines of the Writing Program both in the college and in the department. The Faculty Development committee of the nursing department will include the review of the writing program as part of the departmental faculty orientation.  We will request that they assure all faculty have current guidelines and information about rhetorical competencies and writing/communication in the department of nursing.  New faculty members are also assigned a department mentor who may assist or provide guidance with evaluation of writing/ communication as needed.  Many faculty members also attend annual conferences in nursing education where new ideas for educational strategies are available.  These often include development of writing and communication skills.

The department will provide new and part-time clinical faculty members with a copy of Nursing Department Guidelines for Written, Oral and Visual Competencies and Evaluation.  In addition we will provide faculty guidelines for evaluation and grading of rhetorical assignments in the nursing department.

V. Assessment:  The competencies for graduates of the Calvin College Department of Nursing will be assessed while students progress through the program and at the point of graduation.  Each competency is listed below with the course and assignment that prepares the students to meet those competencies.(see Tables I, II, III, IV at end of this document) The department Evaluation Committee will provide information and/or reports to the college Writing Program Committee as requested.

Those assignments or experiences that measure competencies while students are progressing through the program will be labeled as “Formative assessment”. Those assignments designed to measure outcomes will be labeled “Outcome assessment”

The nursing department determined that we would use the Nursing Care Plans that students write each week as a measure of their progress in written skills. A written nursing care plan is the basis of all client nursing care and is a culmination of many skills that students develop.  Faculty will compare the nursing care plans written during the first semester with those written in the final semester as a measure of their progress within the nursing major. 

The department evaluation committee will also document what the graduates say about their preparation related to rhetorical skills as well as what their employers might wish to offer about our graduates’ skills.  Our nursing Evaluation Committee also seeks input from our communities of interest, hospitals, clinics, community centers, graduate programs etc. regarding how our students perform with regard to professional writing and communication.  Our goal is to be responsive to input regarding our students abilities to use their rhetorical skills.

A summary report of the assessment data regarding the department of nursing will be provided to the college Writing Program Committee as requested.  The Nursing Department will collect information regarding writing assignments, formative and outcome achievement when each course is evaluated as indicated in our Plan for Ongoing Improvement.  At this point in time every course is evaluated once a year in the Curriculum Committee meeting during Spring or Fall departmental workshops.

Documents to be included in the Nursing Department Writing Program Guidelines for students and faculty along with this document:

  1. Student Guidelines for Writing in Nursing- to be introduced in first nursing semester course.
  2. Use of APA format and required purchase of current APA Manual- assigned in first nursing semester course
  3. Review and adhere to guidelines introduced in the Research and Information Technology course (RIT). These guidelines may be found at
    1. Pay particular attention to the “Responsible use of Technology” document.
  4. Department of Nursing Due Date Policy
  5. Department of Nursing Plagiarism Policy
  6. Use of the college library and Rhetoric Center
  7. Grading of written assignments and expectations for formal paper writing and assignments.
  8. Examples of writing assignments across the nursing curriculum.  
  9. Faculty guidelines for development and/or change of writing assignments in the nursing curriculum:
    1. Relationship between the rhetorical competencies, course objectives and assignments.
    2. Introduction of rhetorical assignments in classroom, laboratory or clinical setting to promote students’ understanding of the purpose of the assignment, the audience and how the assignment will be evaluated. Evaluation methods and expectations for the assignment should appear in writing in the course syllabus.
    3. Regular faculty consultation with students and feedback as needed, either verbal or written.  Use of peer evaluation methods when working in pairs or small groups to provide feedback.
    4. Role modeling of good writing in course materials (clarity and content) and in their own scholarly writing
    5. Changes in writing assignments should be done in collaboration with the departmental curriculum committee and reported in course evaluation reports to the curriculum committee or in some cases brought to the curriculum committee for approval. Check with the chair of the department curriculum committee if there are questions.