from Advance Healthcare Network
by Susan Stabler-Haas and Patricia Abdalla
“‘The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will . An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about.’–William James (1890)
Developing the capacity of “bringing a wandering attention back, over and over again” can be a formidable – and ultimately rewarding – challenge. As applied to nursing education, harnessing the wandering minds of our nursing students in order to increase their attention to the task at hand is a goal worth pursuing. An increased level of attention should yield an increased level of student performance, whether it be presenting in class, administering medications at the clinical site, or taking exams. Unfortunately, this proposition is not as simple as it seems. Assisting nursing students in developing their ability to concentrate is more difficult than ever.
A University Nursing Professor’s Observation
The stimuli competing for the college student’s attention has grown considerably in recent years. Prensky recalls how those born before 1990 were somehow able to manage their daily routines without using email, social networking, text messages or other interactive technologies.1 Today’s nursing students live in a world that is quite different. Their cell phones and tablets continually summon their minds to another place with an urgency that is puzzling to many of their elders. Nursing instructors and support staff have witnessed the allure that this electronic commerce has on nursing students, as it collides with academic demands that can tolerate little or no distraction in the classroom, lab, or clinical floor. Even when the cell phones and tablets are powered down, have they left in their wake a student brain that has been conditioned to divert its attention to another unrelated mental realm at any given instant? The students’ ability to focus intently for prolonged periods of time on one thought, idea, or task is not as robust as it formerly was, and indeed must now be to achieve academic success. What is to be our response as nursing educators?”