Messages from the Nursing Department

Utilizing a Writing in the Disciplines (WID) Course to Teach Nursing Students about Their Profession


Nancy Maggio

Teaching nursing students about the profession they have chosen in a writing-intensive course can be daunting, and at the same time be a very rewarding and challenging experience. Nursing is not just about patient care at the bedside. Nursing is a profession that follows a code of ethics, has a commitment to society as a whole, and is constructed on sound philosophical foundations and evidence-based practice.

A course of this nature presents an overview of nursing as a professional, scholarly discipline and its significant role in healthcare. Emphasis is placed on developing students’ ideas about related topics that provide foundations for current professional nursing practice through writing, such as historical and social factors, reflective practice, emotional and social intelligences, theoretical and empirical knowledge, ethics, advocacy, therapeutic communication, sociopolitical and emancipatory knowledge, sound clinical judgment, teaching, learning, cultural awareness, skills acquisition, and evidence for practice.

Evaluation of students’ understanding of such topics and their development of ideas and scholarly writing is accomplished through assigning two concept analysis papers and a final paper. The student has the opportunity to rewrite the two concept analysis papers for a better grade after reading the professor’s feedback. There is no rewrite option for the final paper.

The challenge I faced as a nursing professor teaching a WID course was how to give constructive feedback that didn’t appear too harsh to the beginner writer as it relates to the writing component (APA format, sentence structure, grammar, etc.) and the analysis component (paraphrasing to demonstrate understanding of topic). Many semesters ago when I first started teaching this course, I spent hours making corrections and writing comments on student papers. When the rewrites came back, I found many times my own words and corrections were reflected back to me, and the student was not demonstrating understanding of the topic and/or APA scholarly writing. I have since changed my technique of giving feedback. I always start with a positive statement, followed by a question that will hopefully encourage more critical thinking and research of the topic. I then comment on what could be improved or where they can seek further information (i.e., by rereading sections of the assigned material and referring them to a particular section in the APA Manual).

Using a WID course to teach students about the nursing profession not only develops their writing skills, it makes them aware of the many facets and uniqueness of the profession; it encourages them to be critical thinkers, to form educated opinions, and to seek evidence. Assisting with the development of undergraduate nursing students’ scholarly writing will not only prepare them to be well-rounded competent nurses, it will pave the way for their future success as direct patient caregivers and as graduate students advancing their education with master’s and doctoral degrees, enabling them to become advanced-practice nurses, researchers, educators, administrators, and entrepreneurs.


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