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Abstract

Nursing education in Australia has undergone significant change over the past 30 years. Most notably, the transfer from a traditional apprenticeship model to that of a professional degree based course in the tertiary sector. Contemporary healthcare institutions demand graduates who are ‘work ready’ and able to ‘hit the ward running’. The demographics of the Australian population indicate that groups of culturally diverse individuals are seeking healthcare along with an ageing population of Australians who have unique needs. The growing demand for more highly trained, work ready nurses has landed squarely on the shoulders of universities providing comprehensive nursing education. The problem now for nurse educators is to facilitate teaching and learning strategies that will engage the student nurse in processes that promote critical thinking and problem solving in the work place. While various models and curricula are in use across Australia in pre-registration nursing education, there is growing evidence to suggest that Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is perhaps the most suited to producing professionals who are able to problem solve and address the multiple demands of an ever changing environment. The introduction of a PBL curriculum will meet this demand. Here at Edith Cowan University, the School of Nursing Midwifery and Postgraduate Medicine has undertaken a pilot project introducing a web based resource to align with the introduction of a hybrid PBL curricula. Undergraduate nursing students undertaking the Bachelor of Science (Nursing) were given the opportunity to meet a paediatric patient in the Virtual Health and Wellness Centre. This virtual site enables nursing students to explore case study in various nursing areas such as paediatrics, critical care, medical/surgical and aged care. Students progress through a scenario which incorporates theory relating to anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, psychosocial issues, research, professional issues and relevant nursing skills. Each scenario is formulated around a set of learning outcomes, which are evaluated by the student at the completion of the case study. During practical laboratory sessions students are able to contextualise their learning and seek informal peer feedback. The development of these case scenarios are context rich and built around the central aim of engaging students in self-directed learning. This discovery learning leads to higher comprehension and transferability of knowledge. Students will be able to practice the skills and theory in practical laboratory sessions which adds a functional dimension to the online material making the meanings derived from the combination of theory and practice more profound and ‘real world’. Gibbon (2005) states that “in PBL we take a collection of information, pertinent to the problem. We learn a little about each and synthesise it to solve the problem, like a jigsaw” (p. 6)

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