Concept-Based Nursing Curriculum: A Progressive Approach to Nursing Education

November 28, 2017 Mitchell Law


Over the last three centuries, nursing curriculum has continued to adapt and evolve thanks to trailblazers like Florence Nightingale. “The accomplishments of Florence Nightingale in identifying the need to educate women who were to work as hospital nurses” set the progressive standard for nursing education in the previous two centuries. Today it’s nursing employers who have begun to pick up where Florence left off by driving the call for nursing students to “be better able to critically think, exercise clinical judgment, and apply theory to practice when they enter the nursing workforce” (Morrell & Ridgway, 2014). This drive by employers has led many states to implement an integrative and holistic approach to nursing education known as concept-based nursing curriculum (CBNC).

The Call for an Integrative Approach to Nursing Curriculum

North Carolina has already mandated the change to CBNC, and Alabama is in the final steps to implement it, while Colorado and Ohio are discussing it. Erickson (2008) tells us that CBNC is a type of nursing pedagogy “focused on developing and integrating broad ideas and principles to enhance student learning by bringing real-life meaning to content-specific knowledge and skills.” CBNC is a scientific- and evidence-based conceptual approach that teaches students to view patient treatment in a holistic sense rather than focus primarily on treating symptoms.  CBNC teaches nursing students to factor in patient variables like socioeconomic class, culture, and religion into their treatment. Simply put, the goal of CBNC is to better prepare nurses for practice.

Concept-Based Nursing Curriculum’s Impact on NCLEX Pass Rates

Is CBNC impacting NCLEX pass rates positively or negatively? Well, in the case of Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, pass rates increased from 86 to 96 percent one year after implementing CBNC. While increased NCLEX pass rates are a good indicator of CBNC’s value, the overall goal of better preparing nurses for practice requires student learning outcomes to be tracked and measured to ensure strong student understanding of CBNCs.   

Assessment Challenges and ExamSoft Solutions

One programmatic challenge when instituting any progressive curricular approach like CBNC is that nursing programs won’t know how successful CBNC is until years of data are aggregated. ExamSoft developed its embedded-assessment platform to help nursing educators track, measure, and report on exams, quizzes, and rubrics in real time so curriculum and teaching methods can be analyzed after every test instead of years later.

Collaborative and Integrative Curriculum

When implementing an integrative co-course approach to curriculum, it’s essential that nursing programs have a technological mechanism that can facilitate collaboration between educators and assessment administrators. ExamSoft’s platform houses all exam and assessment data in one web-based portal, empowering nursing educators to run longitudinal reports that can be used to compare and contrast how an individual student or cohort of students did on different CBNC-integrated topics or courses. Nursing programs are able to effectively analyze, debate, and reform CBNC only when assessment data and reporting are accessible institution wide.

While implementation of CBNC can be difficult, tools like ExamSoft’s one-stop, embedded-assessment platform can help your nursing program measure curricular success in real time. Ready to start your assessment journey with ExamSoft? Don’t wait any longer. Schedule a demo with us today.  

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