Lifelong Learning : Journal of Trauma Nursing | JTN

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Lifelong Learning

McMahon, Maria Faillace MSN, RN, PNP-AC/PC, TCRN

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Journal of Trauma Nursing 28(6):p 339-340, November/December 2021. | DOI: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000612
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As long as I can remember, the saying “You should learn something new every day” has been an important principle in my life. Lifelong learners find opportunities for learning in all they do. It is a dynamic process, which encompasses both one's personal and professional life—whether it is a personal self-discovery, such as realizing better sleep habits when consistently doing yoga, or in the professional realm such as mastering a new formula for calculating the size of an endotracheal tube, participating in elective continuing education activities, or obtaining a new certification. Living life with the goal to learn something new every day is a proven way to enrich our lives.

Lifelong learning is identified as an imperative for professional nursing (Davis et al., 2014). A few essential characteristics of a lifelong learner are reflection, questioning, and an enjoyment in learning. The ability to self-reflect, integrate others' points of view, and understand perceptions, concepts, or behaviors that may differ from their own is fundamental (Davis et al., 2014). It is reasonable to assume that even though one has graduated from nursing school and passed the boards, there is more to learn. During the transition from novice to expert, there is an evolution of professional growth that occurs. Initially, mentors, individual institutions, and professional organizations may provide these learning opportunities through continuing education. Many will choose to pursue a graduate degree. Then, there is a point when individuals become curious about established knowledge; the ability to question the established norm; to explore whether something could be done differently or more efficiently; these are all components of lifelong learning (see Figure 1; P. Pratt, personal communication, June 25, 2021).

Figure 1.:
Components of lifelong learning. CE = continuing education.

Most people want to do their best, but we all make mistakes. When a mistake happens, taking accountability and ownership sets the event aside and shifts the mindset to understanding why it happened. Mistakes are opportunities to learn by and to correct behaviors or processes, thus minimizing the likelihood of recurrences and helping ensure that the best clinical outcomes can be achieved. Reviewing and analyzing mistakes and near misses without judgment create a positive learning environment and facilitate professional growth.

To learn something new every day is a choice, which is ongoing, and provides fulfillment. A simple example is of a trauma nurse practitioner who starts a tertiary survey on an injured patient with the thought to learn something new whether it is an injury, about the mechanism, or about the patient as a person. This attitude allows them to “think outside the box,” not assume, and to gain a better understanding of the patient. There are so many opportunities for continuous learning.

Lifelong learning is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge that enhances one's personal development, professional responsibility, and overall personal and professional satisfaction (Roman-Cohen, 2020). Being open to opportunities is important as each of us balances our personal and professional interests. Some strategies to consider include the following:

  • View challenges as opportunities;
  • Unlearn assumptions;
  • Identify your personal goals;
  • Have confidence in yourself;
  • Try out new things and then evaluate results;
  • Mentor others;
  • Become involved with your professional organization; and
  • Learn something new every day!


Davis L., Taylor H., Reyes H. (2014). Lifelong learning in nursing: a Delphi study. Nurse Education Today, 34(3), 441–445.
Roman-Cohen T. (2020, September 2). Follow these four simple steps to becoming a lifelong learner.
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