Essay on a Caring Curriculum

Caring is an important part of any curriculum.  Nursing educators need to role model caring behavior in all their interactions with student nurses and patients. Role modeling by the clinical instructor is one of the major ways that the student learns about caring in their practice.  The caring that is learned by role modeling will carry through into the students' professional behavior as an RN. 

There is very little documentation in the literature about what behaviors, on the part of the clinical instructor, lead to the development of caring in the role of the professional nurse.  The teaching of caring and ethical behavior really cannot be done in the classroom.  The best way to incorporate this teaching into the curriculum is to use the clinical instructor's caring and ethical behavior as the role model for the student nurse.  This means that at all times the instructor must be aware of and monitor her behavior so that she is sending the appropriate message to the students in her clinical group.  It is necessary to educate all faculty about the importance of monitoring their own behavior and how this influences the student's leaning of caring in the clinical setting.  
As a nurse clinical educator, I see on a daily basis how important it is to treat the students with respect and caring, this is a chief way that we learn how to be caring nurses ourselves.  Many times, I have found that staff nurses in the clinical facility do not exhibit the same level of respect and caring for the students they are working with, some of them have been down right rude to the students and treat them as if they are a bother with some not even acknowledging the student's presence.  The familiar saying "nurses eat their young" is true and very sad.  Was caring for peers and colleagues included in their nursing education, sometimes I think not.  All too often, nurses forget that they were students themselves.  Sometimes I wonder if they think that they emerged from the womb as RNs and did not need to struggle learning the profession.  How did this happen?  Somewhere along the way, when they were being taught how to care for patients, they missed hearing the part about caring for their colleagues and future colleagues as being just as important.  

Maybe we can stop or reverse this trend by paying more attention to our role in educating our future nurses in the art of caring not just for our patients, but for our colleagues as well.  To do this we must stress the importance the clinical instructor plays in the teaching of caring, by role modeling.  Nursing faculty must be educated in what behaviors comprise caring and ethical practice and then how to transmit these through appropriate role modeling.

Being aware of the importance, we, as nurse educators, play in the forming of ethical and caring nurses, carefully monitoring our behavior and by always treating each of our student with respect; we will then be able to eradicate the use of the term "nurses eat their young"; we will then have professional nurses who place just as much importance in caring for their colleagues as well as for their patients.


Becky Ellis MN, RN



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