Self-Evaluation in Nursing Programs: Purpose & Techniques

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Self-evaluation is an effective learning strategy which can bring many benefits to nursing programs. This lesson introduces self-evaluation strategies and explores how they can help nursing students and their instructors.

The Context of Self-Evaluation

It is important for educators and students alike that their academic programs offer opportunities to assess the strength of the teaching and learning that is taking place. In nursing programs, this responsibility can fall to Certified Nurse Educators (CNEs), licensed nurses with enough experience to teach student nurses about health and nursing theory. Certified Nurse Educators must find ways to build evaluation strategies into the courses and learning experiences that they provide.

Instructor Doright is a CNE and has been a nurse faculty member at the local university for two years. Now that she is well acclimated to her position as an educator, she has been given the mission of developing a student-focused evaluation program. As a well-respected educator and highly experienced clinician, Instructor Doright understands that she is essentially tasked with three things:

  • Learning how well the university's program meets the needs of the students;
  • Determining student actualization and readiness for the professional setting; and
  • Finding objective strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of the university's nursing program.

Developing an effective plan for student self-evaluation will help her to achieve all three of her goals.

A Well-Designed Plan

Self-evaluation can benefit students in many ways. First, it provides them with protected time to reflect on their personal development both formally and informally. Doing this can help students identify strengths and weaknesses and receive validation (support in perspective) from their instructors. Next, it allows instructors and students to measure growth in areas of competence. In the nursing profession, measuring competency is of utmost importance because the entire profession is based on critical performance standards.

Instructor Doright knew that in order to have her students successfully self-evaluate during the program, she would have to plan out specific methods of evaluation and feedback. After researching various methods on self-evaluation, she decided to incorporate three strategies into the nursing program.

Performance Checklists

Before performing care in the clinical environment, Instructor Doright required her students to prepare in the simulation lab, a safe and realistic space designed for students to practice high-risk skills. To ensure that her students met the baseline level of competency before beginning to work with patients, each student was assigned performance checklists, a skill list to be signed off at the end of the lab session.

During Instructor Doright's last lab session, she taught her students how to safely insert a urinary catheter. This skill was first reviewed in the textbook, discussed in lecture, and demonstrated by the instructor. Next, the students gave a return demonstration of the skill. After practicing the skill, students mark it off on their checklists, indicating that they feel confident enough to perform it for the instructor. The performance checklist is signed off after successful completion of the skill, and students who are unsuccessful are given an opportunity to remediate the skill (undertake additional practice or education). After all the skills in the course are successfully demonstrated and the checklists are signed off, they are kept in the student files to document the education provided.

Reflective Journaling

Now that the instructor has verified that her students can safely perform specific clinical skills, they are preparing to enter the live hospital environment. At the end of each clinical day, Instructor Doright assigns her students a reflective journal entry. This type of assignment is a very different type of self-evaluation from performance checklists, because journaling is subjective. This means that students are not evaluating their ability to complete specific tasks, but are expressing their feelings and emotions about their experiences that day.

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