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DEPARTMENTS: Guest Editorial

Innovation in Nursing Education Revisited

Caputi, Linda J.

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Nursing Education Perspectives: 5/6 2017 - Volume 38 - Issue 3 - p 112
doi: 10.1097/01.NEP.0000000000000157
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The Merriam-Webster dictionary ( defines innovation as “the introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device.” Reading further, the dictionary explains that an innovation can refer to “something new or to a change made to an existing product, idea, or field.” The range of innovation is discovered through examining synonyms, which include change, alteration, revolution, transformation, and even breakthrough.

In its standards for nursing education programs, the National League for Nursing (NLN) Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (2016) defines innovation as “using knowledge by which to create ‘new (or perceived as new)’ ways to transform systems, including educational systems” (p. 33). Again, considering the range of innovation as presented through its synonyms, innovation can be broad enough to change an educational system or narrow enough to include an alteration to a specific teaching methodology. It can even encompass the transformation of an approach such as that used to teach clinical reasoning.

The NLN has been a leader in innovation in nursing education for nearly three decades (NLN, 1988). Fifteen years after its call for a “curriculum revolution,” the NLN issued a position statement: Innovation in Nursing Education: A Call for Reform (NLN, 2003). This position statement called on nurse educators to engage in dramatic reformation and innovation and question the very nature of learning, teaching, and curriculum design. It challenged faculty to develop new pedagogies that are research based and responsive to the current and rapidly changing health care environment. Although written in 2003, this message is very much needed today.

To help faculty and administrators achieve clarity about a possible focus for innovation, the NLN's 2003 position statement suggests ways to proceed. These include the following:

  • Engage in intensive dialogue with peers, students, and nursing service colleagues about the nature of reform in nursing education.
  • Explore new pedagogies and new ways of thinking about nursing education.
  • Rethink clinical education to design new methods that better prepare new graduates for current nursing practice.
  • Ensure that faculty evaluation practices do not inhibit program innovation, pedagogical research, or faculty efforts to be creative in their approaches to nursing education.
  • Reward faculty for pedagogical innovation and inquiry.

These examples represent major events in nursing education, but there are also small initiatives that hold value as contributors to the larger movement for innovation. For example, a current change in nursing curricula is the concept-based curriculum (CBC). The CBC requires major curriculum revision, with a reorganization of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes taught in nursing programs. For CBC to be successful, faculty must deliver the curriculum using a conceptual approach (Giddens, Caputi, & Rodgers, 2015) that requires innovation in teaching and learning.

There is a pressing, ongoing need for change in nursing education. The need continues not because it has not yet been addressed but because change in nursing, health care, and education is ever present.

The major changes with the CBC and the conceptual approach to teaching require many innovative strategies in the classroom, clinical setting, simulation laboratory, and skills laboratory. These strategies, developed by faculty, may involve a 10-minute classroom activity, a 30-minute clinical exercise, or a course-long approach to teaching clinical reasoning. The need is great for all levels of innovation, from the very small, such as a new instructional strategy, to a very large system level change such as the CBC.

As has been the case since the NLN’s initial call for reform in the late 1980s, followed by the 2003 position statement, there is a pressing, ongoing need for change in nursing education. The need continues not because it has not yet been addressed but because change in nursing, health care, and education is ever present.

The major difference today from the 1988 and 2003 calls from the NLN is that change happens at a much faster pace now than ever before. The Innovation Center section in Nursing Education Perspectives serves as a platform to share the many innovations of nurse faculty and administrators that may not otherwise be disseminated. As the editor of this department, I encourage authors to submit manuscripts presenting their innovations, large and small, as a starting point for the change that is sorely needed today.


Giddens J., Caputi L., & Rodgers B. (2015). Mastering concept-based teaching: A guide for nurse educators. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
National League for Nursing. (1988). Curriculum revolution: Mandate for change. New York, NY: Author.
National League for Nursing. (2003). Innovation in nursing education: A call for reform. Retrieved from
National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation. (2016). Accreditation standards for nursing education programs. Retrieved from
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