Culture of Lifelong Learning in Nursing - De Kalb, Illinois

Lifelong Learning: Fostering a Culture of Curiosity

Lifelong learning contributes to the development of knowledge and skill in nursing. A focus on continuous learning is necessary to remain current on trends, practices, and the newest treatments in the fi eld of nursing. Creation of a culture where educational growth is supported and promoted is vital to advancement of the nursing profession. Nurses' satisfaction with their professional role can be further enhanced by demonstrated expertise through lifelong learning. Expertise in nursing is solidly founded on evidence-based practice. Research, education, and experience in nursing practice are linked to evidence-based practice and lifelong learning; both are essential to remaining well versed in health care service delivery.

Facilitation and sharing of knowledge is considered to be a vital factor in security of the prosperity of modern societies.

The fi eld of nursing has great diversity in career opportunities. The growth in employment opportunities available to nurses has greatly expanded areas of clinical practice and nursing expertise. Nurses are responsible for ensuring that their clinical knowledge base is as expansive and comprehensive as their specialty. In order to assure patients optimal care, nurses must be well versed in the most accurate and current information in clinical practice. Curiosity and desire to enhance nursing knowledge are essential to skill in practice. One of the American Nurses Association's professional standards is the enhancement of practitioner skill and competence through lifelong learning (American Nurses Association, 2004).

Development of skill in nursing practice can be achieved through opportunities for demonstrating competency. Continuing education experiences and opportunities for nurses to keep pace with a rapidly changing environment are central to professionalism. Growth in nursing is fostered through opportunities that allow for learning (DeSilets & Dickerson, 2010). Nursing is a profession that focuses on the dynamic nature of practice and the provision of appropriate, highquality clinical services that lead to positive health outcomes.

Supporting lifelong learning in nursing allows for the development of critical thinking as well as the expansion of knowledge related to the most current clinical treatments, procedures, and practices. There is a distinct relationship between nursing, lifelong learning, critical thinking, and clinical reasoning (Cruz, Pimenta, & Lunney, 2009). The ability to deal with varied health care scenarios in an introspective, appropriate, and detailed manner is a capability that is strongly supported by lifelong learning.

Professional nursing behaviors are solidly founded on awareness and comprehension of the expected quality of health care provided by nurses. The respect and professional skills for which the nursing profession is recognized are based on the public's comfort with the aptitude and ability of nurses. Lifelong learning allows nurses to develop confi dence and skill in service provision that is evident to patients, their families, and other health care practitioners. Attention to lifelong learning is based on dedication to the acquisition of skills, new knowledge, and a desire to be ever evolving and well versed in the nursing fi eld (Armstrong, Johnston, Bridges, & Gessner, 2003).

A focus on lifelong learning in nursing makes a major contribution to professional success and satisfaction. Receptivity to a culture of learning demonstrates awareness of the value of belonging to a learning society and of the characteristics important to lifelong learners. Characteristics valued by lifelong learners include the following (Gopee, 2000):

* Innovation

* Flexibility

* Change agency

* Adaptability

* Creativity

* Self-reliance

* Accountability

Each of these characteristics enhances the development of professional nurses who are prepared to deliver health care in a technologically advanced, constantly evolving society. The role of the nurse practicing today requires skill in delivering care to patients with higher acuity levels and more health service needs in seeings that frequently have very limited resources.


A culture of learning and curiosity contributes to nurses' comfort with seeking ongoing education. A culture of learning is fostered by a drive for self-improvement and educational development (Borowske, 2005). Lifelong learning supports development of clinical expertise and critical thinking ability. Nursing interventions are the means of promoting patient well-being and thus are vital to a nurse's competence and clinical knowledge (Kedge & Appleby, 2009).

In the American Journal of Nursing more than 80 years ago, Charles Judd (1928) noted that continued training in service delivery for nurses promotes the wellbeing of the nation. Cultivation of the desire to pursue continuing education as a means of professional development in nursing requires peer and organizational support in order to incorporate personal and professional education as a career measure. Nurse educators, schools of nursing, places of employment, and nurses should each contribute to the renewal of a focus on education and lifelong learning. Commitment to the nursing profession demands accountability for building, exhibiting and maintaining clinical competency.

Nurses face daily challenges that a culture focused on lifelong learning can address. Expansion of theoretical knowledge and clinical ability allows nurses to make well-informed determinations about areas for professional growth and opportunities to enhance expertise. The desire to be proactive in expanding levels of education is essential. This proactivity about learning lends support to the development of a culture in which advancing education is promoted and encouraged. A culture in which curiosity is supported through educational expansion requires organizations to be sites of learning that provide a foundation for professional nursing development and educational enhancement (Cowley & Wilcockson, 2001).

Health organizations alone cannot maintain a culture of curiosity for lifelong learning in nursing. Nurses themselves must also seek out opportunities for advancement and professional development. Support from state boards of nursing and credentialing agencies also contributes to the validation of educational veracity in nursing. In order for many nurses to maintain licensure and/or preserve specialized credentials, documentation of continuing nursing education is required (Lannon, 2007). In many states, lifelong learning is a mandatory requirement for practice. Several states have begun to recognize the value of having a nursing workforce that embraces the concept of continuous learning as essential to practice (Postler-Slattery & Foley, 2003). This support by state nursing boards and credentialing agencies for the value of continued learning in practice corroborates the need for a culture that supports the relationship between professionalism, knowledge expansion, and enhancement of educational curiosity.

Besides the promotion of lifelong learning through mandatory requirements for continuing education, a culture where curiosity is independently encouraged for nurses is exceptionally important to a focus on the dynamism inherent in the fi eld. Nursing as a practice arena is constantly growing, developing, and changing; this evolution in the fi eld of nursing must be embraced. Lifelong learning focuses on educational curiosity not only as a professional necessity but also as an activity benefi cial to accomplishment, growth, and fulfi llment in the fi eld of nursing.


Nurses demonstrate knowledge and clinical competence through the utilization of evidence-based practice, which is intricately intertwined with lifelong learning. Evidence-based practice connects the concepts of nursing education, practice, and research, all of which are essential to the learning process. The learning process requires recognition that experience alone does not validate nursing practice. Lifelong learning requires that nurses use their experience in combination with best practices and research to ensure that the most current nursing processes are being implemented.

Innovation in the fi eld of nursing stems from the use of evidenced-based practice. A desire to incorporate the newest evidence into nursing practice is a component of lifelong learning. The newest, most effi cient practices in nursing are based on research that is verifi ed through application in the fi eld by nurses and nursing students (Happell, 2005). These new practices evolve through the cyclical process of research, application, and education, thus allowing the development of further research and new evidence of improved clinical practices that is fostered through educational development. Understanding and appreciating this cyclic relationship is a fi rm basis for the delivery of nursing care grounded in eff ective outcomes validated by research and educational expansion.

Basing improvements in nursing care on clinical knowledge requires an understanding of evidence-based practice (Tagney & Haines, 2009). Research allows nurses to assess the value of the most current practices and their possible contribution to patient outcomes and professional service delivery. Lifelong learning dedicated to enhancing service delivery by incorporating best practices is crucial to the concept of evidence-based practice.

Evidence-based practice allows nurses to apply professional development skills. The robust nature of health care service delivery requires that knowledge of nursing care be dynamic and evolving. Lifelong learning gives nurses the ability to connect research and practice through expanded educational exposure (Hockenberry, Brown, Walden, & Barrera, 2009). Development in the fi eld of nursing is based on substantiated patterns in care that have demonstrated successful outcomes. Knowledge and use of evidence-based practice allows demonstration of eff ective strategies that have been proven to produce positive patient outcomes. Awareness of and exposure to evidence-based practice promotes profi ciency in nursing preparation that can be validated through the pursuit of lifelong learning.

Individual competency is further demonstrated by evidenced skill in practice. Lifelong learning that focuses on educational experiences related to practice and research is needed in order to promote understanding of the value of the nursing role in health care. Nursing education, practice, and research experiences can be furthered through mentoring by role models, Internet research, journal article reviews, attending conferences, and varied work experiences (Jenkins, 2006). All these learning experiences throughout a nurse's career are key to exploring, appreciating, and developing life's experiences.

There is a distinct relationship between nursing, lifelong learning, critical thinking, and clinical reasoning. The ability to deal with varied health care scenarios in an introspective, appropriate, and detailed manner is a capability that is strongly supported by lifelong learning.

Commitment to the nursing profession demands accountability for building, exhibiting, and maintaining clinical competency.

Lifelong learning requires that nurses use their experience in combination with best practices and research to ensure that the most current nursing processes are being implemented.

Learning: Fostering a Culture of Curiosity." Creative Nursing. . 2010. HighBeam Research. 26 Jan. 2011 <>.

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