Quality assurance and quality enhancement of the nursing curriculum – happy marriage or recipe for divorce?

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van de Mortel, TF, Bird, JL, Holt, JI & Walo, MA 2012, 'Quality assurance and quality enhancement of the nursing curriculum – happy marriage or recipe for divorce?', Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 110-118.

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Background: This study investigated nurse academics’ perceptions of a curriculum review process that married a ‘top down’ quality assurance process with a ‘bottom up’ quality enhancement process in a Bachelor of Nursing curriculum.

Methods: Focus group interviews were held with seven nurse academics on two campuses of a regional Australian university. The data were analyzed thematically.

Results: Overall nurse academics found value in both the collegial sharing of ideas in the ‘bottom up’ unit review meetings and in the ‘top down’ unit reporting process. However their perceptions of the curriculum review process highlighted a number of tensions that clustered around the following main themes: clarity of communication, sensitivity/validity of review data, the impact of contextual factors, and the risk of ritualized practice.

Conclusions: These results highlight that quality assurance and quality enhancement processes can be married, but clear communication is needed about the purposes of the curriculum review process and its constraints, and a mechanism is required to close the quality feedback loop. Nursing academics need to take ownership of the process to find ways to work around contextual constraints that impact on the success of the curriculum review process.

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