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Mind Maps in Action: Educating Future Nurses

In this 'Mind Maps in Action' edition, we speak to Pat Schmehl about her use of mind mapping in her role as a nursing educator.

Could you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

I am a registered nurse with two grown children and two grandchildren. I graduated from a diploma program 36 years ago and have dedicated my life to nursing. The majority of my career was spent at the bedside caring for critically ill patients.

After receiving my master’s degree in nursing 10 years ago I began educating future nurses in a 2 year program (associate degree) at a local community college. An adjunct position transitioned to a full time one and I have been a nurse educator ever since.

When and how were you first introduced to mind mapping?

I attended a nurse educator boot camp in 2007 along with several other faculty members and the topic was introduced there. At that time use of mind and concept maps in nursing education was relatively new.

What prompted you to utilise mind mapping in your role as a nursing educator?

Actually, one of my co-workers who had attended the boot camp made the first suggestion. Then our sophomore nursing faculty team decided on a format. I expanded on the idea from there and created a lecture to introduce students to the process.

What do you think are the benefits of doing so?

The main benefit is critical thinking awareness and growth. Concept mapping embodies the critical thinking components of analyzing relationships, learning goals that transcend comprehension and knowledge application. This is extremely valuable in nursing because these mental processes directly affect and determine nursing actions.

Another important benefit is that the created map is a direct reflection of the thoughts and associations used by the student. This provides instant and valuable feedback on critical thinking, both for the student and nursing educators. It provides wonderful goal setting and mentoring opportunities.

Finally, as the critical thinking improves, the practice becomes habitual and becomes incorporated solidly into nursing practice.

Do you think there is scope for greater adoption of mind mapping within the medical sector and if so, how might we make this happen?

Without a doubt. In nursing and medical education there is always a striving for realism to reinforce knowledge application and nursing action rationales. Adding mapping in some form to simulations would be fantastic. I have also read an article or two on the possibility of incorporating concept maps into patient education. There are some very provocative possibilities.

One way to increase awareness would be to have more published. There are some texts, one of which I have written, but I feel more articles need to be written on how to institute and integrate concept mapping into curricula.

Research focused on their use and critical thinking outcomes would help as well. There is not a great deal of nursing or medical related research concerning this.

How do you think we could encourage the use of mapping within education as a whole?

Other than what was previously mentioned, there is a need for better student preparation for studying and learning at a collegiate level. Learning styles are an extremely important step for reinforcing self–reflection on how to best learn. Learning styles and brain processing are intertwined. Aligning the style to both studying and note-taking assists with maximizing study time and effort for the most meaningful learning. Concept map formats can then be created to align with that style for maximum learning outcomes. I have encouraged this, seen it in action and the results are dramatic. Students gain confidence and perform better academically as well as clinically.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Concept maps do not need to be completed solely on paper. Many nurse educators utilize concept maps in lecture PowerPoints. I have often used “verbal” or “mental” concept mapping exercises during clinical post conferences using an actual patient scenario. The steps used in creating a patient care based concept map can even be broken down to extract valuable learning points. The versatility and adaptability is endless. Pairing mapping with simulation is great for realism in nursing education.

Thanks to Pat for sharing her story with us! You can follow Pat on Twitter, and find more of her maps on Biggerplate right here. Do you have a Mind Maps in Action story you'd like to share with us? Get in touch via Twitter or by commenting below!

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Barney is Community Manager at Biggerplate and shares user stories, mind mapping tips, and other news and updates from our global member community!
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