Journal of Neuroscience Nursing:
Carroll, V. Susan Editor
The Editor declares no conflicts of interest.
Dora Marquez is a 7-year-old Latina who inhabits an imaginative, interactive world at Nicolodeon and Nick Jr. With her ever-present companions—Boots the monkey, purple Backpack, and The Map, she leads her enormous preschool fan base through a series of adventures as they explore her own world and culture as well as the bigger world beyond. In every episode Dora and her fellow explorers solve problems, overcome obstacles, challenge themselves, and build relationships as they travel toward a goal. As her young fans watch and listen during each episode, Dora teaches them to examine situations closely, investigate new ideas and problems, think creatively, trust their instincts, and work interdependently. Dora tells stories that celebrate discovery.
What, then, can Dora teach us as nurses? We can take most of the traits she embodies and apply them to our clinical practice. We too need to solve problems and help patients overcome obstacles; we need to examine our patients’ cultural concerns, our own culture, and the broader culture of healthcare. We build relationships with every patient encounter and must be able to work interdependently. We travel along often circuitous paths to achieve goals with our patients and their families. We also explore in other ways. A recent issue of The American Nurse featured nurse explorers who are conducting research that will ultimately make a difference in patients’ lives. One of these researchers, Debra Barksdale, is studying nighttime changes in blood pressure; she tells us that “What makes nursing research different is the context, or perspective, we bring to issues because of our knowledge and our direct work with patients” (Trossman, 2014, p. 6). She recognizes the influence of culture and relationships in nursing practice.
Benner and her colleagues (2010) include the need to develop a clinical imagination in their call for changes in nursing education. To transform the environment in which students learn to be a nurse, educators must teach students how to “stay open,” put the pieces together, and make a case for therapeutic options by contextualizing clinical practice. These skills may provoke uncertainty, but like Dora, students can tackle the challenges and overcome obstacles to best care and practice. Learning is experiential; the development of clinical reasoning and judgment is supported through “detective work” (p. 57), questioning, and the articulation of the connections between skillful task performance and the patient’s experiences and concerns (culture).
Transformative learning theorists tell us that we develop frames of references as lenses through which we view our world; we build new knowledge on prior learning, life experiences, and instinctual responses. Like Dora, we explore using maps of our previous travels. Transformative learning promotes the development of a professional identity by promoting reflection, analysis, and synthesis of knowledge that can be applied within and across contexts. We create mental landmarks—Dora and Boots use these to help them navigate as they explore new situations—as clinical points of reference.
On a final note, Dora tells her fans stories that they carry into their young lives. My group of novice nursing students recently used Dora and her companions to help a toddler navigate the very scary world of an inpatient pediatric hospitalization. His English-language skills were marginal at best; he was away from home and all that was familiar and safe; and he had undergone a significant surgical procedure. The time he spent watching Dora with the students—sometimes in a tent provided by Child Life staff—let him find a happy, contextually friendly place. The students were able to help him travel a new road and explore a new world by channeling their inner Doras. Be daring. Explore like Dora.
Benner P., Sutphen M., Leonard V., & Day L. (2010). Educating nurses: A call for radical transformation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Trossman S. (2014, March/April). On the forefront: Nurse explorers. The American Nurse, pp. 1, 6.