Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University

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Overview of the curriculum innovation

The Kirkhof College of Nursing at the Grand Valley State University incorporates community concepts across the five semesters of the undergraduate nursing curriculum.  The curriculum is concept-based with community/population health incorporated as one of the concept threads included in the curriculum design.  The process of defining the exact meaning of “community” within the nursing curriculum was an early challenge since community concepts may be focused on the individual, the family, or the population.  Faculty successfully incorporated an approach that begins in the first semester. In the first semester undergraduates students focus on the individual within the community and are exposed to simulations that prepare them for the community-based care experience.  During this semester they also do home visits, concentrating on home safety assessments and the impact of the home environment on the individual.  The primary focus on the individual within a setting continues for the second semester.  During the third semester the focus broadens to the family unit and by the 4th and 5th semester, the focus is on population-based health including the social determinants of health in the community.  The students are placed in the same public health site for their 4th and 5th semesters in order to support completion of their population health project. These projects focus on population health and the impact of the environment on the health of the individual.  Sites for this experience include health departments, homeless shelters, and community refugee agencies.  

There is a simultaneous clinical focus on acute care in the curriculum.  The students learn acute care skills in local hospitals at the same time that they are completing the community clinicals.  The faculty have found that students understand transitional care issues clearly.  The students are exposed to Mary Naylor’s Transitional Care Model (TCM) during their clinical experiences.  Simulations focused on transitional care use chronic disease models such as CHF, COPD, or DM for topics. 

Students are generally positive about the community experience and faculty note improvement in the understanding of care transitions and the need for continuity of care.  There has also been marked improvement in the HESI community health scores over the last 3 years.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing.  (2008) The Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice.  Washington, D.C., AACN.

American Association of College of Nursing. (2013).  Public Health: Recommended Competencies and Curricular Guidelines for Public Health Nursing, A Supplement to the Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice.  Washington, D.C., AACN.

Naylor MD, Feldman PH, Keating S, et al. Translating research into practice: transitional care for older adults. J Eval Clin Pract. 2009;15(6):1164-70.

Quad Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations.  (2011).  Quad Council Competencies for Public Health Nurses.


S. Harrington, Ph.D., RN.
Grand Valley State University