New undergraduate curriculum

New undergraduate curriculum increases learning opportunities in population health, health equity, ambulatory care

students in classroomStarting in Autumn 2019, undergraduate students enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs at the UW School of Nursing Seattle campus will have a new curriculum that adds additional opportunities for ambulatory care, population health content and clinical experiences and research.

The new, re-envisioned undergraduate curriculum is based on the Institute of Medicine’s curricular redesign framework, which places a greater emphasis on diversity, cultural humility and the promotion of health equity and social justice in healthcare.

“These adjustments in our two undergraduate programs will help us continue to produce nurse leaders with the expertise to tackle the critical healthcare needs facing Washington state and the world,” said Dr. Anne Hirsch, associate dean of Academic Affairs. “We are deeply committed to meeting the needs of our community, and we believe this new curriculum will help us do that.”

This roll-out is the latest in the school’s systematic process to re-envision all of the degree programs. The DNP re-envisioning was completed in 2014. The re-envisioning process for the Ph.D. program began recently and is expected to be complete in 2019.

The new undergraduate curriculum does not affect undergraduate students already enrolled in a BSN or ABSN program. Students in the current cohort, as well as those beginning their undergraduate programs in Autumn 2018, will complete their degree following the current curriculum.

After the roll out of the new curriculum, BSN and ABSN students will continue to master exceptional life-saving skills for practicing in an acute care settings, and will gain crucial skills for expanding scope of practice for registered nurses in outpatient ambulatory care settings.

“The new curriculum will help us meet growing demand for preparing registered nurses who are skilled to practice at the top of their license in diverse health care environments, and who are using research and evidence-based practice in their work,” said Dr. Tatiana Sadak, associate professor and director of undergraduate education.

New opportunities

The new curriculum also expands students’ opportunities for interprofessional education (IPE), service learning and for simulation learning, thanks to the new Simulation Center that opened in Fall 2017.

IPE is an approach to teaching and learning that brings together students from two or more professions to learn about, from, and with each other in service of enabling effective collaboration. The goal of IPE is to improve health outcomes through the education of a practice-ready healthcare team that is prepared to respond to local health needs. The UW School of Nursing is a national leader in IPE.

Students will have greater access to community service projects. They will receive guided opportunities for independent service learning, which allows them to engage directly in the lives of people living in our communities. They will be able to share these experiences with their cohort and receive credit for their work. One opportunity already underway is with Dr. Josephine Ensign and The Doorway Project.

The simulation center provides a safe, supportive and controlled environment in which students at all learning levels are able to practice skills, role-play patient care scenarios and gain leadership experience in clinical- and community-based care settings. It is the perfect place to practice working with interprofessional teams.

With the new integrative focus, students will no longer have classes that teach concepts in silos, such as one class about pharmacology, one class on caring for older adults and one class about health equity.

“Our country’s current population trends require nurses to have a growing number of specialized skills and knowledge,” Sadak said. “As a practicing nurse, you need to think about the whole patient when delivering care. Our new courses provide a high degree of content and skill integration so that when our future nurse leaders work with a particular patient, they will have expertise thinking about all aspects of nursing care together, the pathophysiology, pharmacology and cultural and social factors that impact care.”

“We are excited about a more holistic approach,” she said.

The ABSN program, geared to students with a bachelor’s degree pursuing a new career in nursing, will become streamlined so that students can complete their program in four quarters rather than five.

The number of clinical hours, not counting those provided through simulation, will continue to be 785 for BSN students and 705 for ABSN, well above the state-required minimum of 600. This ensures students are well-prepared to practice as registered nurses and nurse leaders immediately after graduation.

Necessary overlap between the current and the new curriculums will result in a temporary adjustment in the undergraduate cohort sizes in 2018. To avoid overloading our clinical partners, sites and faculty with too many students, the number of BSN students enrolled will temporarily decrease, while the number of ABSN students enrolled will temporarily increase.

The new curriculum also will feature enhanced connected teaching opportunities for faculty members who are teaching in the undergraduate courses, because the higher degree of content integration requires systematic communication.

We are also focusing on modernizing educational delivery, such as integrating virtual learning platforms and digital course materials, developing hybrid in-persona and distance course content, and flipping the classroom (students read and prepare at home and interact, then process new material in class. Instructors guide and coach students instead of lecturing). This provides a richer learning environment for students by improving content integration.

Pipeline for nursing scientists

The BSN honors program has also been strengthened as part of the new curriculum. The honors program was created to provide opportunities and support for students hoping to become nurse scientists. The program pairs each student with a faculty mentor over three quarters to work on research, giving students direct access to the same expertise that makes UW the No. 1 public school for graduate nursing education.

Community support and input

The UW School of Nursing worked closely with community and clinical partners during the re-envisioning process to ensure the new curriculum continues to produce nurse leaders prepared to deliver high quality, safe care. The school’s Community and Clinical Advisory Board, made up of nurse leaders and representatives from numerous community organizations, played an integral role in the process.

“Our re-envisioned curriculum would not be possible without the incredible support and input of our community partners,” Hirsch said. “Their robust engagement in this process means that we will continue to cultivate strong future nurse leaders who are able to change the world.”

Special thanks goes to our honorary assistant deans, the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization, Kaiser Permanente, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Public Health – Seattle & King County, VA-Puget Sound Health Care System and UW Medicine, which includes Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, Valley Medical Center and Northwest Hospital and Medical Center.

For more information

For more information about the new undergraduate curriculum, email