CEP 817: Empathy in my Curriculum Design

As described in my initial problem of practice statement, I have been given permission and funding to start an internship program for prospective flight nurses. The first of its kind in the country, it is intended to prepare the competent ICU / Emergency Nurse to become a competent, practicing flight nurse. The program lasts one year and will consist of 10 core learning modules, critical care transport time and procedural labs. The challenge that I currently face is that while I have written core objectives, I am unsure what the modules will look like, how to write curriculum and how to implement the program in a manner that will prepare these novice nurses for practice.

As I prepare to write curriculum, I was interested to learn from our 2 newest flight nurses, Gina and Sandy. As they have recently completed their Survival Flight orientation, I feel that they possess a unique perspective in which to help me write “intern-centered” training. Last week before our staff meeting, I spent an hour talking with them over coffee. I tried to make this as “least formal” as possible in order to get real answers and emotions. My goal was to understand their unique perspectives, where they came from, what succeeded during their orientation and more importantly, what were the challenges that they experienced.

As natural as I tried to make this discussion, I still needed to take notes. I wrote down “key words and phrases” that I heard, interesting gestures and expressions that I noticed, and emotions or feelings that I interpreted as a result of the conversation. From the notes that I took, I created an Empathy Map (below) in order to visually represent what I was hearing and create common threads that would later allow me to thoughtfully insert these feelings and emotions into a worthwhile curriculum. From what I collected, I feel that Sandy and Gina’s comments are quite representative of what these interns may experience. I will use the data as a quality check while writing curriculum.



What I learned from this is that my current training regimen is quite effective. What led me to this assumption was what they said and what they did during the discussion. As they smiled and joked about their experience, I sensed a feeling of comfort in answering my questions and inquiries. They were able to compare compelling stories of transports that they had been on (both good and bad but always educational). In healthcare, we often refer to these as “war stories.” They both described how positive their experiences were as they were spending time in other Intensive Care Units (ICU). The amount of simulation that they were exposed to and that they spent more time “doing” rather than learning via “Death by Powerpoint” indicated to me that they felt a sense of accomplishment in completing initial Survival Flight training which came from their ability to demonstrate rather than to merely regurgitate facts.

Likewise, some of Gina and Sandy’s comments made me realize how exhausting initial orientation can be for the novice flight nurse and that this requires a certain degree of sensitivity on my part. I have to be selective with whom I assign as trainers (preceptors) because they both in concert stated that some senior flight nurses are in engaged in the training process while others are not. While blended learning seems to be the best recipe for success based on the comments surrounding “less classroom, more hands on experience,” I also understand that as specific concepts, skills and management strategies become more complex, I will need to provide more structure, perhaps in the form of brief lectures or in-services (until now, I had approached orientation with maybe too much structure or standardization).

I feel that I am off to a very good start with respect to creating “intern-centered” training. While attempting to place myself in the shoes of trainees can be difficult, it is certainly worthwhile,  and something that I plan on doing more often and throughout the entire internship training curricula. Something that I feel that I have learned from this exercise is that these somewhat “informal” meetings can be invaluable. My plan is to make adjustments between each module based upon what I learn during intern meetings throughout the course of training and instruction.

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