More than Just a Lack of Knowledge: A Discussion of the Potential Hidden-Impact of Poor Pre-enrolment Science Background on Nursing Student Success in Bioscience Subjects

James Crane, Jennifer Cox

Abstract


As medical knowledge and technology becomes more complex, twenty-first century nurses are required to possess an advanced understanding of many bioscience concepts. It is now recognised that without this advanced knowledge, nurses will not be sufficiently prepared to deal with the intellectual and technological demands of today, let alone the future. While the importance of bioscience education to nursing practice has been long recognised, nursing students, as a group, have a well documented struggle with science subjects. This struggle has been largely attributed to the lower university entrance scores required for nursing courses and a lack of previous science study. However, as in any complex system, a multitude of factors are likely to be responsible for the difficulty faced by many nursing students in their science studies. In this paper, we argue that a lack of engagement with science early in a student’s life can significantly influence student’s feelings towards science subjects, the achievement goals that they set themselves, and their interest in learning science. Given the wealth of evidence that high-school students are avoiding science-based subjects, low levels of engagement with science and high-levels of anxiety towards science-based subjects are issues increasingly faced by tertiary science educators. As such, understanding the science background of students, and improving their attitudes and feelings towards science, is a critical first step in helping nursing students learn the science required for their future practice.

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