While studying medicine, I made friends with many nursing students. They had excellent clinical skills and great passion for being becoming nurses. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to work with any of these friends upon graduation and I know many must have faced challenges finding a position in my country’s competitive health care system.
Addressing competency gaps among nursing students
These personal concerns have since been reinforced by a number of surveys and other initiatives designed to identify gaps among nursing students and develop ways to bridge them. In 2012, health professional educators started examining the nursing education in Vietnam. An employer survey revealed that newly graduated nurses lacked soft skills and competencies, especially in ‘critical thinking and problem solving’ and ‘leadership and teamwork.’ A survey among nursing students in their final year also confirmed that many were less confident in ‘problem solving’ and ‘management of healthcare,’ as well as in the ‘application of information technology (IT) and computer’ skills. Furthermore, three out of every four nursing students in their final year complained that online learning resources were either unavailable or insufficient.
These studies soon drew the attention of policymakers to the quality of nursing education in Vietnam and, over the past decade, nursing schools have seen improvements in their teaching and learning environments, with ‘student centeredness’ joining ‘teamwork,’ ‘management of healthcare,’ and ‘evidence-based practices’ as part of the core competencies expected of a Vietnamese nurse. The development of soft skills was also added.
As part of its response to improving education outcomes in health, the Ministry of Health began implementing the ‘Health Professionals Education and Training for Health System Reforms’ (HPET) Project in 2014 to improve the quality of education for health professionals. With financing from the World Bank, the HPET Project provided 11 health universities and colleges with technical and financial support to transform their nursing education programs into competency-based ones, allowing beneficiary schools to move to an integrated curriculum in order to allocate more time for clinical sciences and enable students to have earlier contact with patients. Faculties also introduced new teaching-learning methods, including problem-based, team-based, and simulation-based learning. Nursing students can now study theories in ‘flipped’ classrooms and then practice in clinical simulation centers. A network of clinical practice sites has now expanded beyond hospitals to include primary health care settings, while student assessment has improved through the use of reliable evaluation methods, such as tests with multiple-choice questions and objective structured clinical examinations.
Adoption of IT in nursing education
The HPET project also provided nursing education institutions with financial support to improve teaching and learning environments. Nursing schools paid special attention to the adoption of IT in nursing education – including online resources, learning management systems, e-learning modules, competency-based examination, and others. Harnessing the power of IT has enable faculties to introduce new teaching-learning methods, such as ‘flipped’ classrooms, blended learning, problem-based learning, and team-based learning. Thanks to early investment in IT infrastructures and the deployment of e-learning modules, beneficiary schools have also been able to maintain teaching and learning activities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
See how a beneficiary health college adopted IT to improve the quality of nursing education, with support from the HPET Project.