Key stakeholders' expectations of educational outcomes from Australian critical care nursing courses: A Delphi study

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Journal Article
Australian Critical Care, 2007, 20 (3), pp. 89 - 99
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Background: Educational preparation for critical care nursing in Australia varies considerably in terms of the level of qualification resulting in a lack of clarity for key stakeholders about student outcomes. Objectives: The study aim was to identify and reach consensus regarding the desired learning outcomes from Australian post-registration critical care education programs as demonstrated through the graduate's knowledge, skills and attitudes. Design: A Delphi technique was used to establish consensus between educators, managers, clinicians and students regarding learning outcomes expected of graduates with a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and Master level qualification in critical care nursing. Participants: A total of 164 critical care nurses (66 clinicians, 48 educators, 32 managers and 18 students) participated and 99 questionnaires were returned in the first round (response rate 60%). Fifty-seven questionnaires were returned for Round 2 (response rate 58%). Methods: Learning outcomes were obtained from the Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Competency Standards for Specialist Critical Care Nurses. Some statements included more than one characteristic, and these were split to create learning outcomes with one characteristic per item. A survey of Australian higher education providers of critical care education provided additional learning outcomes, for a total of 73 learning outcomes for the first Delphi round. Results: Findings suggest that patient comfort, safety, professional responsibility and ethical conduct are deemed most important for all three levels of educational preparation. There was a lack of emphasis on clinical practice issues for all levels. Participants placed higher emphasis on learning outcomes related to complex decision-making, leadership, supervision, policy development and research for Graduate Diploma and Master level programs. Conclusion: The findings have implications for curriculum development and the profession with regards to the level of educational preparation required of critical care nurses and suggest that further work is required before clear recommendations can be made for desired educational outcomes from critical care nursing programs in Australia. © 2007 Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Ltd.
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