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MCC Daily Tribune Archive

All WRite: WAC in Practice

Writing for the Health of It

By Vestina Turner, MS RN [Nursing]

In this age of technological advances and the electronic patient record, is it really important that students learn to write effectively as a nurse?  Considering the life and death situations that nurses sometimes face, the need to make quick decisions based on critical thinking and nursing judgement, multitasking and the management of high tech machines, effective writing may seem like an afterthought. The federal government has established laws to provide programs to improve health care quality, safety and efficiency through promotion of health IT, which includes electronic health records, and private, secure electronic health information exchange. This would seem to give the impression that documentation only consists of entering data in computer flow sheets.  However, while a good deal of the documentation is completed through technically logging in flow charts and check boxes, nurses must be able to express in the medical record, a complete account of the patient encounter.  Therefore, it is imperative that nurses communicate effectively with the understanding that documentation is a permanent interpretation of an encounter with a patient that has far reaching consequences, especially considering documentation can be called into question through litigation years later.

It was quite obvious from the results of a recent WAC survey that nursing students did not realize nursing courses were writing intensive.  Some students did not realize what a writing intensive course meant, or why writing is necessary or important to nursing. The nursing faculty believe so strongly about the importance of writing in nursing, that all clinical courses are writing intensive.  In the first course, students are introduced to the philosophy of the nursing program with the introduction of Professional Identity, Nursing Judgment, Human Flourishing and the Spirit of Inquiry.  Writing assignments include informal writings, observations, assessments, and reflective journaling.  These assignments assist the students in developing the skills necessary to convey in writing the care provided for their patients. This needs to be accomplished while taking into account that same documentation is scrutinized by regulatory bodies that must consider the quality of documentation for financial reimbursement, legal guidelines, and auditory oversight.

Technical writing, assessments, critical thinking, and the ability for the nurse to tell the patients’ ‘story’, these are some of the goals of the writing intensive nursing courses.  The ultimate goal, however, is for the nursing student to take these honed skills, and be prepared to successfully continue on to complete their education, and become what we know they can become, professionals who are critical to quality patient and organizational outcomes.


Note: This the third installment of a series of Trib articles written by members of the Writing Across the Curriculum steering committee. We’re calling this series All WRite: WAC in Practice, and the purpose is to showcase how faculty in different departments teach their courses as writing intensive.

If you are a WR-certified faculty member who would like to be featured in future series (Fall 2016, for example), please contact Amy Burtner, Interim Coordinator for WAC, at <> . We would love to highlight your teaching!

For more information about WR certification and the application process, see the WAC webpage.

Amy Burtner
Writing Across the Curriculum