Team exams? Don’t knock ’em ’til you’ve tried ’em!

By Elizabeth R. Stuesse | 10/26/2016

It is all about preparing future nurses for actual practice.

Team exams? Don't knock 'em 'til you've tried 'em!

As a nurse educator, I take great pride in preparing the next generation of nurses. What better way to pay it forward? I am not only preparing another generation of nurses to compassionately and holistically care for patients at the bedside, I am preparing them to be part of a team—to be team players.
Elizabeth StuesseIf you have been a nurse for a while, or have practiced in healthcare in some capacity, you understand the value of good colleagues. The people you work with can make or break your shift. They can make a terrible shift and the worst assignment bearable. They can make going to work fun and enjoyable. Conversely, they can leave you hanging just when you have a patient who is taking a turn for the worse.
It is vitally important to teach future nurses to work cohesively as a team. As experienced nurses realize, you will not always know the answer. That is where your “team” comes into play. Put your minds together!
In the nursing courses I teach, I try to tap into that mind-set. My students do many things as a team: case studies, evidence-based projects, and assignments in the simulation lab. And when they test—one of their most important activities—they test in teams. Not sure that’s a good idea? Hear me out.

On days when there is a test, students first take the test independently. Then they take the exact same test as a group. I assign the groups. Both independent and team tests are given a score, with the team-test score worth half as many points.
It is amazing to walk around the room and hear students discussing a test question and teaching each other. Almost always, if one student does not know the answer, a teammate does, and they help each other understand why the answer is what it is. They bounce ideas off each other, and they have to decide as a team. “What answer are we going to choose?” they ask. When their minds work together, the results speak for themselves: Team test scores are almost always higher than individual test scores.
Elizabeth R. Stuesse, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, is clinical assistant professor of nursing at Catherine McAuley School of Nursing, Myrtle E. and Earl E. Walker College of Health Professions, Maryville University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. 
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