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Writing in the Field of Nursing
Student Case Study

Michigan State University pre-nursing student Sarah McCurdy and senior nursing student Angela Lang shared their ideas about writing in the field of nursing. McCurdy and Lang were knowledgeable of what to expect in the writing as a RN or registered nurse. Their studies are preparing them to write as a nurse. Both McCurdy and Lang reviewed the type of writing they had done in their classes as well as the writing they anticipate doing on the job. They described characteristics of writing in nursing being clear, complete, precise and accurate. The two students also shared the idea that nurses need to prove their value, which they noted could be accomplished through good writing.

McCurdy has just applied to the nursing college and is currently taking an introduction to nursing class, NUR 491. McCurdy noted that this class requires journal entries about the students learning in their daily life and how that situation can apply to nursing. Students of NUR 491 also write reflective essays about the book they read for class and movies that they watch in class. These essays are for the students to reflect on how movies and readings pertain to the field of nursing. She shared that the purpose of writing in this class is to understand the nurse's role and to learn where their daily life situations might apply to a nursing situation in the future. She shared an example of what a nursing journal entry may include, a brief description of the idea she shared follows:

If I am at work as an usher at the Wharton Center and someone is causing a conflict over seating and I need to redirect the people to a proper place for them to sit I can apply this to nursing. I might say that this would apply in the ER if two patients were in an argument over their receiving order. I might need to redirect the patient like I redirected the people at the Wharton Center Show.

The journal entry is written for the student to understand the nurses role and how their skills used today apply to nursing. Professors, she shared, grade the student for recognizing that the student knows how to apply current situations to nursing. McCurdy shared that skills needed to succeed in writing as a student of nursing include good grammar and spelling and getting your point across in a clear and precise manor.

Lang will graduate in May 2001; she has nearly completed all of her requirements for graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Lang's nursing classes have required reviews of journal articles, research papers and an annotated bibliography or a basic review of articles on a certain topic related to nursing. The nursing tier II writing class NUR 319 Lang shared, was a research class where the students does research and writes in depth analysis of different nursing articles. The more difficult aspect about the tier II writing course was that the students were reading and analyzing a new genre, which required them to learn how to read the article and write about it. Other types of writing Lang has done in her nursing courses are seen through her clinical experience which includes: health histories, write ups on patients and diagnosis intervention which is writing about how to care for a patient.

Lang shared that the purpose of writing in nursing classes is to better grasp the information presented and to prove what the student has learned to the professor. Lang described skills needed to succeed in writing as a nursing student are being able to clearly express your thoughts of an observation. She explained that her classes have prepared her for writing in nursing through the repetition of similar assignments in her classes.

Through their classes and work experience the two students shared what they anticipated writing in nursing would entail. They both noted that charting is the nurse's way to communicate and prove what they are doing. Lang suggested that changes in nursing are resulting in more demands being put on the nurse with evidence based nursing as the way nurses prove their value. This is accomplished through documentation and other forms of writing. McCurdy anticipates that writing will need to be precise, detailed and analytical. It will need to incorporate scientific terminology and it will need to be interpreted and understood across the staff. She shared that although writing is not emphasized as a big role it does play a major role in nursing as it is the way to communicate to the doctor.

The difference between the student's ideas of writing in nursing is seen through their ideas of how often nurses write. How much a nurse writes is relative to the interviewee's idea of writing. Lang shared that she did not consider charting writing. She therefore felt that nurses do not use writing skills that often. She shared that writing is primarily for the purpose of providing evidence of care provided and for helping to give the best care possible. McCurdy shared that nurses write everyday through documentation, various types of write ups and messages. She felt that the primary purpose was communication for the doctors and others on the health care team. Lang and McCurdy shared that technology may influence writing in nursing through computerized charting but writing will still be important, it might just take a different form.

Characteristics of writing in the field of nursing according to Lang include being "clear, thorough and accurate." McCurdy stated that characteristics of good writing include making your point clear and precise. McCurdy also shared that good writing as a nursing student includes being "willing to take criticism" and "being willing to improve." McCurdy noted that nursing writing avoids flowery wording and must be to the point to state the facts and get the point across clearly. Good punctuation and spelling are needed in nurses writing. McCurdy shared the importance of writing in nursing that false documentation of a patient can be life threatening. The nurse must document exactly and be truthful in all of their writing. If a nurse makes a mistake they must document that in order to help the patient. She also emphasized that the nurse needs to be culturally diverse and aware of the patient that the nurse is writing about because it would be easy to offend someone through the nurses writing.

Lang and McCurdy shared insights to writing in nursing that were present in other areas of research. They answered the questions easily. They both shared that they never realized how many factors are involved in writing as a nurse. They expressed confidence that they could continue to develop their writing skills through practice and continuing their education. As future RN's neither of them planned on publishing in nursing. McCurdy emphasized that writing was an important role in nursing. The characteristics that they described represented the universal ideas of how writing as a nurses should be done.

Basic GenresUseful Information for Nursing Students
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