Carolina RN to BSN Online
Conceptual Bases of Professional Nursing Practice
System Variables:  Agencies
Part 1:  Variables Influencing Teaching and Learning

System Variables

Teacher Variables

Learner Variables

Part 2:  The Seven Steps of Planning --Plus One

Weekly Assignment 1
Evaluating Learning

Weekly Assignment 2
Analyzing Experiences



Another group of system variables that affect teaching-learning in nursing are those related to the agency or organization in which you practice. Examples of agency/organization variables are:
  • Organizational structure/roles
  • Policies and procedures
  • Resources

Organizational Structure/Roles
Your organization's structure and people's roles within that structure help determine who teaches what and when. For example, some organizations have individuals whose job is teaching a particular patient population, such as people with diabetes; or whose job is teaching related to a specific event such as pre-op teaching or discharge teaching. These "designated teachers" have a variety of titles including clinician, clinical specialist, and educator. When an organization has "designated teachers", that person has the primary responsibility for teaching specific patient population(s) or subject matter, and the staff nurses' teaching role becomes more supportive, focusing on review and reinforcement. In contrast, in many organizations, teaching is the responsibility of the nurse(s) responsible for the patient's overall care. For example, in home health each nurse has responsibility for teaching the patients and family's in his/her case load. Clarity concerning roles and responsibilities, and effective communication among all those with responsibility for teaching are key to making any system work.

   Thinking about your experience ...
  • Who has responsibility for teaching what in your current practice setting? Are roles and responsibilities clear? Do those with responsibility for teaching communicate effectively with each other?
  • What works well in your setting? What are the problems in your setting?
  • How does your past experience with teaching differ from your current situation?
  • What structure do you think best facilitates effective teaching as a part of nursing practice?

Policies and Procedures
Many agencies have policies and procedures to direct teaching and learning in that setting. Policies and procedures may be derived in part from standards of practice, and usually address rules and process: who teaches; when teaching should be done; how to get teaching materials approved; how to document teaching; etc. Policies and procedures may address teaching materials, but are not the same. For example, a policy may include rules for developing and/or using educational pamphlets, but the pamphlets themselves are not part of the policy or procedure.

  Thinking about your experience ...
  • Are you familiar with policies and procedures governing teaching in your setting?
  • How do your agency's policies and procedures facilitate teaching as part of your practice? How do they impede teaching as part of your practice?
  • If you were on a committee assigned to review and revise your agency/unit's policies and procedures, what suggestions would you make?

The quantity and quality of resources available to support teaching and learning certainly influence the character of teaching-learning interactions, and can decrease their effectiveness. Resources generally boil down to money, and this is no exception. Examples of resources that money can buy include:

  • Time
  • Space
  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Experts

As we know, resource allocation reflects priorities. This is the case with individuals and organizations. Incongruence between stated priorities and resource allocation can be frustrating, as can incongruence between individual and organizational priorities. It may be safe to say that most of us want our organizations to value teaching as much as we do, and we want them to "put their money where their mouth is".

Certainly adequate quantities of excellent resources offer more options and make teaching easier. However, it is important to remember that teaching-learning interactions can still be effective when resources are limited. Skill, creativity, and flexibility can overcome some resource limitations.

  Thinking about your experience ...
  • How would you rate the quantity and quality of resources for teaching in your agency?
  • How does teaching rank in your priorities regarding practice? How does this compare with the priority your agency places on teaching?
  • What strategies have you used or seen used to make teaching effective in spite of limited resources?
  • What strategies have you used or can you think of to get additional resources for teaching?


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