Biomedical Science practicals for nursing students-fostering the “desire to learn”: (Invited Seminar Presentation)

Sean Roe, Laura Montgomery, Etain Tansey, Abdul-Kadhum Al-Modhefer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


A knowledge of the biomedical sciences is becoming increasingly important in the Nursing profession as such knowledge provides the scientific basis of modern nursing practice (Trnobranski, 1992). Biological science, however, is known widely as a “hard” subject to learn for nursing students (McKee, 2002). This fact, coupled with the recent widening access to nursing courses, with classes often composed of academically inexperienced, non-traditional students (Montgomery et al., 2009), presents a unique challenge to teachers in traditional physiology and anatomy departments today. We posit that well designed physiology and anatomy practical classes can increase motivation in inexperienced students by forging the initial essential link between biologic theory and nursing practice, correcting a mistaken impression among nursing students that these are dry, irrelevant subjects. To this end, our nursing biomedical science practicals are nurse-focused, clinically relevant and varied, using blood and urine assays, electrocardiography, pulmonary function and sensory tests, X-rays, cadavers, prosections and histology to provide a diverse and exciting learning experience and to create the “desire to learn” this hard subject in our students. Practicals are assessed in class using task sheets designed to focus attention on the issues we wish students to explore during the session. This also enables them to get immediate feedback and encouragement, particularly important in this cohort. The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of this approach to basic biomedical science teaching. A questionnaire rating the effectiveness and relevance of our biomedical science practical classes was administered to the students at the end of their first phase. Questions focused on the relevance of basic science practical classes to the course and clinical placement and on their enjoyment of the classes themselves. A 5 point Likert scale was used to evaluate the student response to each of the questions with 5 indicating strong agreement with a statement and 1 strong disagreement. In addition to this, there were 3 open ended questions on which students could express opinions on what they enjoyed most about the classes and what they’d change, with additional space to make any other comments. 181 out of 300 participants in the practical classes responded (60.3% student response rate). Ratings are given as marks out of 5 ± S.E.M, n =181. Students responded enthusiastically in the questionnaire about the practical class experience with scores over 3/5 for all positive statements. In particular, students gave high ratings to the practical classes in terms of putting theory into practice (4.0 ± 0.1), their ability to impart basic scientific information (4.0 ± 0.1) and build teamwork skills (4.0 ± 0.1). Nursing students enjoyed the practicals (3.6 ± 0.1), but found them difficult (3.4 ± 0.1). Although still scoring highly, the statements getting the lowest Likert scores in our survey were those concerning enhancement of problem solving abilities (3.3 ± 0.1), teaching nurse specific clinical skills (3.4 ± 0.1) and making students want to learn more about the subject (3.4 ± 0.1). These initial results indicate that nurse-focused practical classes are of huge value in teaching physiology and anatomy, helping put the theory into practice. In this survey, they garnered enthusiastic student support in a subject that is regarded as notoriously difficult by this cohort. It is important, at level one, however, to be realistic in ones educational aims with the practical class and tailor its content to suit.
Original languageEnglish
PagesSA 33
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventPhysiological Society 2009: Physiological Society Main Meeting 2009 - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 06 Jul 200910 Jul 2009


ConferencePhysiological Society 2009


  • Physiology
  • Nursing
  • Anatomy & Morphology
  • Education

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