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The New Nexus: Legal Concept Instruction to Nursing Students, Teaching–Learning Frameworks, and High Fidelity Human Simulation

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Health care in the United States is fraught with legal mine fields, particularly for newly licensed nurses. Numbers of disciplinary and litigation actions against nurses are on the rise, and most nurses are inadequately prepared to handle a legal incident in the practice setting. More nursing students are entering school with legal infractions, such as illegal substance use in their backgrounds or occurring during nursing school, thus putting them at risk for licensure rejection or encumbrance. Furthermore, a changing health care system with increasing regulatory oversight imposes increasingly complex legal duties on both student nurses and licensed nurses in the clinical setting. For these reasons, schools of nursing have implemented legal nursing courses. In the authors' experience at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Nursing, junior level undergraduate nursing students invariably emphasized clinical knowledge and skill acquisition and failed to fully appreciate the critical role that legal constructs play in guiding a safe, effective nursing practice.

UMKC nursing faculty thus faced the dilemma of how to best educate nursing students regarding legal concepts. Despite the integration of multiple teaching methods such as case studies, discussion, policy analysis and testing, student course feedback demonstrated a disconnect between the legal concepts and clinical practice. Based on student feedback and faculty observations, a decision was made to explore the use of high fidelity human simulation (HFHS) experiences as a methodology for teaching application of legal concepts to nursing practice.

The authors, who are faculty for the UMKC Ethical and Legal Issues course, set about designing and implementing a series of learning activities using HFHS as a novel educational approach for teaching legal concepts to junior level undergraduate nursing students. This article examines the HFHS experiences, as reported by Smith, Klaassen, Zimmerman, and Cheng (2011), and Smith, Witt, Klaassen, Zimmerman, and Cheng (2011), for effectiveness and applicability in the context of different teaching–learning frameworks.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-12-01

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  • Journal of Nursing Law was founded to serve the needs of practicing nurses in hospitals, clinics, schools, and elsewhere for solid practical advice on the legal and ethical issues that influence their jobs.
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