eText on Teaching Skills for Health Professionals

A team at Athabasca University pool their knowledge to create an e-text with practical information to help health professionals teach in clinical settings

Students who pursue careers in the healthcare sector need to gain a multitude of skills in many areas—and most are addressed in post-secondary fields of study. But Athabasca associate professor, Sherri Melrose, says the teaching skills needed for healthcare professionals to pass on their knowledge in a clinical setting are sometimes overlooked.

Those within the health field—nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, dietitians and dental hygienists, for example—often find themselves in a clinical setting where they will need to educate others in their field. In order to do that properly, it’s invaluable to learn specific strategies, which is why Athabasca University offers a teaching focus in the Master of Nursing (MN) and Master of Health Studies (MHS).These courses provide practitioners with opportunities to learn more about clinical teaching, educational theoretical frameworks and collaborative mentoring approaches.

Funding from the Campus Alberta Open Educational Resources Initiative helped Athabasca University create Creative Clinical Teaching in Health Professions, a new online textbook that will further improve educators’ chances of developing teaching skills invaluable in a clinical context. It’s a free resource that can be accessed on any mobile device or a computer, and for a small fee can be printed.

According to Melrose, the peer-reviewed e-book is designed especially for health professionals since snippets of information about exemplary teaching can be pulled up on a mobile device. When clinical instructors, for example, have a few moments between activities, they can pull up ideas and practical strategies for engaging and guiding students right on their Smartphones. Or, when they have more time for planning, reflecting and reading more deeply, each chapter provides the latest research on evidence informed teaching practice.

Melrose wrote the book along with colleagues Caroline Park, and, Beth Perry, who are also professors at Athabasca University. The group worked with a professional editor, along with a technical expert, who ensured the tables and information are as readable on a big screen as they are on a phone.

And they consulted with educators and health professionals across the country to gather teaching strategies that are known to work well in clinical learning environments. These strategies have been summarized into text boxes and are positioned throughout the book.

The free e-textbook addresses issues including the application of theoretical foundations to clinical learning environments, articulating personal teaching philosophies, evaluating students and the use of technology in clinical instruction. By considering these and other concerns, and by providing the kinds of practical strategies that can begin to resolve them, the authors believe this open educational resource will be invaluable to the many health professionals who find themselves in the position of educating students.

“Too often, teachers are focused on the content—or what— students must learn. And there is always an overwhelming amount of content information that students in the health professions must learn. But, when teachers focus on the process—or how—students learn, we can support students towards the self-direction they need to become competent professionals,” says Melrose.

It’s not the first time Melrose, Park and Perry worked together to create an OER textbook. The first one focused on online teaching, and was produced by Athabasca University Press. Melrose says that as soon as it was done, they started thinking about the clinical textbook, and the funding from Campus Alberta helped make the idea a reality. “What we established from creating that first book was a theoretical framework, which we built upon with the second book,” says Melrose.

While she’s very happy with the accessibility and strong content within the book, she’s most excited about its accessibility. Now, anyone with a desire to learn more about becoming an exemplary clinical teacher has access to the information through the free online resource.