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To Q or not to Q: Engaging students in quality and safety in nursing education


Every nursing student should strive to make a positive difference in health care. Through will, ideas, and execution, QStudent was created as a new component to the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) Institute. (See What is QSEN?) QStudent focuses directly on students—their perspectives on healthcare issues and how they can improve quality and safety for patients.

Making a difference

At Ursuline College’s Breen School of Nursing, in Pepper Pike, Ohio, sophomore-level courses introduce and center on the importance of healthcare quality and safety as well as nurses’ professional and moral responsibility for improving care. Students in a first-semester nursing course viewed the documentary film Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcarewhich chronicles the status of health care in the United States. In the film, medical journalist Shannon Brownlee states, “If I think about what health care could be like, it would have a lot more care in it.”

This film fueled a passion for quality and safety in healthcare in coauthor Rachel Jalowiec, who sought to make a difference immediately, while still a student. To find out how she could become more involved, she contacted Dr. Mary Dolansky, director of QSEN, at Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, in Cleveland, Ohio. Their conversation led to the creation of QStudent.

QStudent is designed to give nursing students a way to make a difference in healthcare quality while still in a nursing program. It allows them to take advantage of available quality and safety resources to become more educated and quality focused and to deliver more competent care. QStudent enables students to explore ways to incorporate QSEN into their education and discuss how positive changes can be made.

We hope QStudent encourages more students to become familiar with the QSEN program and more mindful of quality and safety concerns. The desired outcome of QStudent is to create future nurses who want and know how to be productive team members, use evidence in practice, and deliver high-quality, safetybased, patient-centered care.

What does Q have to do with it?

As we all know, society has become technology driven. We’re  accustomed to getting immediate information on the Internet, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. To a great degree, this shift to electronic resources is replacing books and other hardcopy formats.

Aligning with this shift, QStudent is accessed electronically. It helps students establish practices that enable and encourage lifelong learning by providing resources that help them in these efforts. QStudent features a student resource page with links to resources that students and faculty have found helpful throughout their careers. It also provides news and information relevant to the nursing student world. Its interactive blog, generated by peers, promotes efforts to join in quality and safety conversations with peers; share workplace, classroom, and clinical experiences; and troubleshoot quality and safety issues together (with full observance of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

To Q or not to Q?

QStudent advances the quality and safety movement and promotes a deeper awareness about QSEN competencies. Mindfulness regarding quality and safety issues must start early in nursing education. QStudent can easily be incorporated into nursing curricula through community blogs, by accessing resources in class, and by encouraging upper- division students to connect with new nursing students. All nursing students, regardless of program type, can use the website and resources. Faculty can use QStudent in the classroom to encourage students to discuss quality and safety issues and become involved through use of social media.

How can you get involved?

As a student-driven site, QStudent offers a level-appropriate view of quality and safety in health care and serves to empower students. It encourages them to be transparent and develop a voice that advocates for patients. We invite you to check out QStudent on the QSEN website, on Facebook at QSEN Institute, or on Twitter at @QSEN_Institute. We encourage students to share their experiences, learn from others, and have a voice.

When this article was written, the authors attended or worked at Ursuline College, the Breen School of Nursing, in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Rachel N. Jalowiec was a nursing student. Currently, Patricia A. Sharpnack is the dean and Strawbridge Professor. Laura Goliat is an associate dean of undergraduate nursing and an assistant professor.

Selected references

Cronenwett L, Sherwood G, Gelmon SB. Improving quality and safety education: the QSEN learning collaborative. Nurs Outlook. 2009;(57)6:304-12.

Heineman M, Froemke S. Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare [DVD]. Santa Monica, CA: Aisle C Productions and Our Time Projects; 2012.

QSEN Institute. Pre-licensure KSAs.

QSEN Institute. Project Overview.

QSEN Institute. QStudent.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Gabriele Cohen
    August 7, 2017 1:47 pm

    My name is Gabriele Cohen and I am a retried Registered Nurse in MA.
    I have a diploma in nursing, BS in Psychology and a M.Ed.I debated many time if to continue my education, for my own satisfaction but since I am retired and my pension after 50 years of nursing is only $7000.00 a year, I do not have the means to enroll in a advance program.
    Do you think that I should give up my wish or try to pursue it?
    I am a volunteer RN with Medical Mission For Children (MMFC), the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) in Brookline MA and Norfolk County, and a volunteer at Sturdy memorial Hospital in Attleboro MA.


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