The theory-practice gap in nursing: The role of the nurse teacher

Landers, M. G. (2000) The theory-practice gap in nursing: The role of the nurse teacher. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32 (6). pp. 1550-1556. ISSN 03092402 (ISSN)


The increasingly complex requirements of today's nursing practitioners, have been accompanied by demands on nurse educators to look at new ways to facilitate learning in the clinical area (Camiah 1996). In recent years nursing education has undergone a period of major change in many countries through integrating with universities. While nurse educators are striving to respond to changes in education the dichotomy between the theoretical input taught in the classroom and what is practised or experienced on the wards remains a problem (Ashworth & Longmate 1993, Ferguson & Jinks 1994). Dale (1994) postulates that theory provides the basis for understanding the reality of nursing, it would seem reasonable, therefore, to assume that the content studied in the classroom correlates with what the student experiences on the ward. It should also follow that if a gap exists between theory and practice, efforts should be taken for its reduction (Rafferty et al. 1996). According to MacNeil (1997) many initiatives have been introduced in an effort to bridge the theory-practice gap and these have focused around the role of the nurse teacher. These changes in education are redefining the role of the nurse teacher, therefore, the part that they currently play and will play in the future needs to be carefully considered (Phillips et al. 1996b). The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the literature on the theory-practice divide in nursing. First, some of the reasons cited for its existence will be explored. Second, suggested ways of bridging the divide will be considered focusing on the role of the nurse teacher.

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