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Environmental health education in baccalaureate nursing programs: New traditions and old ideas in conflict

Stephanie Chrzsiewski Chalupka, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Recently there has been a call for the enhancement of environmental health content in undergraduate curricula to help nurses become more familiar with environmental hazards which place their clients at risk. This survey was conducted among the 478 National League for Nursing (NLN) accredited undergraduate programs in the United States. This non-experimental, descriptive, and exploratory research was conducted to determine the following with respect to environmental health: (1) current and ideal emphasis, (2) faculty preparation, (3) competencies expected of graduates, (4) didactic and clinical contact hours allocated, (5) barriers and incentives to greater emphasis, and (6) differences among type of institution with respect to education in this topic. A mailed self-administered questionnaire was sent to the Deans of these programs. The response rate was 81.4%. Data analysis indicated that ideally 94% of respondents believed environmental health should be given moderate to substantial emphasis while only 73.4% actually provided this emphasis. As actual and ideal emphasis increased, the respondents' perception of faculty willingness to modify the curriculum to include environmental health content, faculty preparation to teach or provide clinical supervision in environmental health, and expected program graduates competencies also increased (p = 0.001). Most significant barriers to increased emphasis were an already overburdened curriculum, lack of qualified faculty to teach this topic, and lack of emphasis on the NCLEX. Factors likely to increase the emphasis were nursing faculty with expertise in environmental health, greater emphasis on environmental health on the NCLEX, and "other", most often the need for faculty development in this area. No evidence of any relationship between research questions and institutional type or size was found (p =.05). Findings contribute to nursing education by providing an assessment of the status of environmental health content in nursing education and clarify some of the complex reasons for the present neglect of environmental health in the education of professional nurses.

Subject Area

Health education|Nursing|Public health

Recommended Citation

Chalupka, Stephanie Chrzsiewski, "Environmental health education in baccalaureate nursing programs: New traditions and old ideas in conflict" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841849.