Undergraduate Nursing Curriculum Content Focuses on Emerging Issues That Influence Health

Undergraduate Nursing Curriculum Content Focuses on Emerging Issues That Influence Health

Helen Mary Bingham
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5490-5.ch011
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Undergraduate education content could hold the key to nursing workforce development. A professional's attitudes and beliefs are developed during these years, along with the ability to use knowledge and skills to promote mental health and well-being, and work with people experiencing mental health and addiction issues. Historically undergraduate education has targeted the support of illness as opposed to developing and supporting health and well-being. In the past decade research shows there is a close relationship between mental illness and addiction with physical health and early brain development. This chapter explores how the Modern Apprenticeship nursing curriculum prepares undergraduate nurses to critically think about a person or family's health at every encounter using a biopsychosocial framework by understanding that all of health is connected and the development of the brain in the early years is key to health and well-being.
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The nursing workforce for mental health and addictions has developed as a specialist area from an historical focus on treating illness. Undergraduate nursing education generally has mental illness and addiction knowledge and skills separated as a specialist topic. This separation supports not only a silo approach to learning but the silo use of knowledge and skills in clinical areas. In particular, neuroscience research has prompted a worldview change, with mental health increasingly being viewed from a well-being as well as an illness paradigm. This research indicates the importance of brain development as it “fits” in the development of resilience for optimum mental health and well-being.

Mental health nurses, who are part of a specialized workforce, appear to hold various views about the concepts of mental health and mental illness. This variation has led to a lack of consensus about the knowledge and skills required by nurses in undergraduate nursing curriculums (Patterson, Curtis & Reed, 2008). The result has been differences in skill level among nurses upon graduation depending on the undergraduate programmes that they have completed. Much of the literature sourced appears to be concerned with the role of nurses in treating people diagnosed with a major mental illness, as opposed to supporting mental health as a state of well-being. Nurses comprise a large proportion of multidisciplinary teams within the mental health and addictions workforce. The roles that nurses take, often allow them to spend more time with people with experience of mental illness and addiction than other health professionals (Barker, 2009). Therefore, nurses need to be prepared by their education to enter into a workplace and operate effectively in an increasingly complex, interdisciplinary health care environment, but also be able to use mental health knowledge and skill in any clinical area (Clinton & Hazelton, 2000).

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