Texas Tech University

Communication Studies department tailors a class to pre-nursing students

Alexa Rosas

Pre-nursing partnership leadership

In cooperation with the Texas Tech pre-nursing program, CoMC professors have collaborated to develop a new course, Communication in Nursing, which opened its first section this Fall.

"The idea behind the class is that we are tailoring communication concepts to nurses, [and trying] to formulate or design a class that is really targeted to their experience working as a nurse," Buckner said.

The class, according to Shimkowski, will provide its students with knowledge of theories, principles, and practices regarding interpersonal and organizational communication, by dividing the class into three sections: Communication Foundations, Communication and Care, and Communication in Health Organizations.

The collaboration was first conceived by Dean of Nursing Michael Evans and College of Media & Communication Dean, David D. Perlmutter, who met to discuss ways to improve communication among health professionals and with the public. "It occurred to us that we needed to start early in the training of nurses, not just to offer workshops after they were set in their careers," Dean Perlmutter said. "Why not a class offered by us [CoMC], but tailored for undergraduates on the pre-nursing track? Our two faculties then followed up with a fleshed-out definition of what that class would teach."

With completion of the class, the nursing students will understand how to more effectively communicate with patients, families, and physicians. They will gain skills related to developing therapeutic communication styles, managing crises, adapting health-related messages to targeted audiences, and skills on communicating across multiple technologies.

Dean Evans explained, "The first benefit is that the course impresses upon the pre-nursing students how vitally important and fundamental effective communication is to nursing and to health care. The course also teaches the students the principles of effective communication in a variety of situations experienced in health care. The benefit for the TTUHSC is that it helps us to better select applicants who understand how to communicate well and who will use these essential skills throughout their time as a student and in their nursing career."

Shimkowski said, "We want students entering the nursing profession to feel confident in educating patients and their families, improving their workplace environments, and developing more effective professional relationships through competent communication practices."

According to Buckner, the class' biggest asset is that it is specific to nurses and that the students are not left alone to make the connection from their communication class to their career path. They now have a partner in that journey.

"This class helps make those connections with them," Buckner said. "They can then say that they understand some broad communication topics and how they can use it in their career." 

Brian Ott, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of Communication Studies, hopes that the class will aid future nurses in doing their job to the best of their ability.

"I think this class fills a very important need," Ott said. "It demonstrates a recognition on behalf of the medical industry for effective communication. Whether that's interpersonal or organizational communication, I think it demonstrates that they recognize the significance of it in effective medical practice."

The class requires no prerequisites but is now a requirement of the Texas Tech pre-nursing program. The first section of the class, which opened this Fall, will serve 110 students, but the Spring section is expected to be significantly larger, at 210 students, to meet the program's demands.

We want to be seen as a world-class example of how a communication college can be in partnership with all sorts of units in health and STEM disciplines to advance science and the public good.

"The demands of nursing school can minimize the time spent on communication techniques, which can ultimately cause disastrous outcomes in health care," according to Registered Nurse and assistant professor in the school of nursing, Amanda Veesart. "Organizers hope to see the course grow into an interactive virtual course, as to cater to distant education students."

There are approximately 600 declared pre-nursing students on campus, Veesart reported, but with the program admitting three times per year, that number will continue to grow.

"The nursing communication class is just one of the partnerships that we have already established or plan to establish in the near future and with other units at Texas Tech and in the health science system," commented Dean Perlmutter.

"We want to be seen as a world-class example of how a communication college can be in partnership with all sorts of units in health and STEM disciplines to advance science and the public good."

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