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The art of teaching the art of nursing: where are the nursing virtuosos?

We use the term virtuoso when referring to musicians, dancers, and other artists and performers. So, too, we speak of the art of nursing and the performance of teachers. Many aspects of the art of teaching the art of nursing can be woven together to help us achieve our objective, to prepare superb nurses. But how do these components fit together in nursing education?

Recently, a notice for a continuing education session caught my eye. The session was focused on helping teachers improve their performances as teachers. Although the advertisement acknowledged that the art of teaching has changed, with the spotlight now on the learner, rather than on the teacher, the idea of performance stayed with me. I began to ponder our dilemmas and challenges in nursing education.

Surely you are all aware that we have not yet solved the problem of enticing the best practitioners--and thus the best performers of the art of nursing--into the academic world of nursing. Aside from the depressing cut in pay that they would experience, there are issues about the structure of nursing education that remain unresolved. We still have an academic-clinical divide in our discipline. And even when we do recruit expert clinicians to the academic fold, it is often not to perform their art. Rather, these clinicians are placed in the classroom, to painfully deliver PowerPoint lectures, or in the assessment lab, to evaluate student learning. Or they may be the faculty who follow students into the clinical arena, at least within the basic nursing education programs. In our graduate programs, we have more fully embraced the virtuosos of clinical nursing, as we most often place students with expert clinicians for their practice supervision.

Of course we know the problems, and the solutions. The question is how best to reform our educational programs to introduce the performance model for nurse educators. We need to introduce the best clinicians as master teachers, because they are virtuosos in practicing the art of nursing on their stage--the clinical arena.

My curiosity about how to change our understanding of nursing practice and education led me to a recent article that details the use of improvisation in nursing and the proposition that nursing is performance art. Mary Anne Hanley and May Fenton speak of nursing education and practice as having virtuosos.

Since 2000, Nursing Education Perspectives has profiled expert nurse educators within the Faculty Matters column. We can celebrate these faculty as virtuosos of nursing education, just as we identify and celebrate the virtuosos who practice the art of clinical nursing. As we strengthen our clinical and academic connections, these individuals may well be one and the same.


Hanley, M.A., & Fenton, M.V. (2007). Exploring improvisation in nursing. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 25, 126-133.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:From the Editor
Author:Fitzpatrick, Joyce J.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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