1. Younas, Ahtisham MN, RN

Article Content

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."


-Maya Angelou1


CREATIVITY ENHANCES the problem-solving abilities of both learners and educators.2,3 Nurse educators should possess a capacity for creativity in order to foster it in students. This essential skill helps both novice and experienced nurse educators maintain a high standard of patient care.4,5 This article discusses how nurse educators can create environments that enhance creativity in future nurses.5


Creativity, contextualized

Most teaching and learning theories implicitly highlight creativity as an essential capacity for educators. For example, behaviorism underscores that one of the essential roles of nurse educators is to design teaching strategies that motivate and stimulate student learning. These creative strategies could include the use of various simulations.6 According to cognitive learning theory, students are active and reflective learners. The role of an educator is to impart knowledge as well as to provide creative opportunities for students to learn by processing knowledge before organizing it.6,7Constructivism states that students learn by assimilating new knowledge over their preexisting knowledge. Constructivism also maintains that different teaching activities stimulate the thought processes that inspire learning.6 The role of educators isn't only to transfer knowledge, but also to provide opportunities for students to learn by processing the knowledge and then organizing it.6,7


According to Knowles' Adult Learning Theory, students engage in learning if they find new knowledge interesting and relevant to their learning goals.6-8 They also need to develop a link between the learned content and their nursing experience. It's the educator's responsibility to present the knowledge in an interesting and clear manner so students find it relevant to their needs.


Assessing learning styles

Assessing students' learning styles can help educators design teaching strategies to help students improve their learning.9 There are four kinds of learning styles: active and reflective learning; sensing and intuitive learning; visual and verbal learning; and sequential and global learning. Active learners learn by doing and reflective learners by thinking about the content. Sensing learners memorize facts and intuitive learners find abstractions, linkages, and connections in the content. Visual learners develop understanding through images, and verbal learners utilize speaking and listening skills. Sequential learners use a stepwise linear approach, and global learners use problem-solving techniques.10 Educators should assess these learning styles while planning their lessons to ensure they use various creative strategies that are helpful for most learning styles.


Fostering creativity

There is debate in the literature over whether creativity is an innate trait or if it can be learned.11-14 However, most researchers agree that creativity can be developed and enhanced with motivations and efforts.12,13,15


Within the nursing context, creativity plays a big part in a nurse's life, but it's often not recognized as such.16 Self-assessment and self-reinforcement could help nurses recognize their creativity and creative thinking abilities.17 Several study authors have proposed strategies for developing and enhancing one's creativity.15,16,18


* Develop "soft thinking" by comparing daily routines and discovering the actions associated with positive outcomes. Soft thinking involves the use of metaphors, dreaming, poetry, humor, play, heuristics, pleasure, process, fantasy, paradox, hunches, generalization, and analogy to help users find associations and processes, which strengthens problem-solving abilities.18 Nurses working in a practice setting can evaluate their actions daily and identify the actions that improved patient outcomes.19 Nurse educators can reflect on teaching and learning strategies and evaluate their effectiveness in improving student learning.6


* Observe your actions and try to do them differently.18 For example, if you typically spend 10 minutes obtaining a patient's health history, consider increasing the time, and try to read between the lines of what the patient communicates. Educators might try switching from traditional teaching strategies, such as lectures, to creative teaching strategies, such as role playing and crossword puzzles.


* Practice and cultivate imagination by looking beyond superficial situations and developing an open-minded attitude. This involves continuous reflection on your practice environment to identify both overt and covert factors influencing the environment and your actions.18


* Explore ideas and literature from disciplines and settings other than nursing. Try out those ideas in your own practice, and evaluate their positive and negative outcomes.18 For example, develop a habit of learning at least one new soft skill or unusual idea, such as becoming a keen observer, that you can apply in your educational or clinical practice setting.


* Become a dialectical thinker by looking for ambiguities and conflicts within oneself, within people or circumstances, and around people and situations as the guide to predict the things likely to happen.18 For example, analyze conflicting nursing actions or approaches to a similar problem, summarize them, and determine which are most applicable to your situation.20


* Collaborate with other healthcare professionals, educators, and experienced nurses to learn new insights and ideas, ask probing questions, and seek feedback. For example, at the end of your shift, share something interesting you've learned with the nursing team during shift change and discuss new learning during team meetings and professional development sessions.


* Develop a habit of everyday creativity by examining a situation in several different ways or from several points of view.18 For example, while providing care, observe your patient's actions, emotions, and surroundings, then validate your observations with the patient. Inquire about the factors that could influence the provision of care. Based on this feedback and your observations, adapt your nursing care plans. In an education setting, educators should observe their students' performance and explore the factors that affect their performance in both negative and positive ways. Seeking feedback from students and adapting teaching strategies to minimize negative factors can improve student performance.21



Enhancing my own creativity

During my time as an educator, I used several strategies to enhance my creativity. The most important for me was developing my sense of curiosity. I kept asking myself questions about my teaching and learning approaches, teaching strategies, and relationships with my students. For example, would using crossword puzzles and mind twisters help students learn better? Would using two strategies distract the students or improve their learning? I asked my colleagues these questions and compared responses. Later, I asked for students' feedback, and they indicated that such creative strategies are helpful in keeping them engaged and improving their learning. The purpose of this curiosity was to analyze a teaching/learning approach or strategy through different lenses. I also used the strategy of adopting a hobby that made me more creative; I began painting and playing musical instruments. This strategy helped me to open my mind to creative patterns, which enabled me to continuously reflect on my teaching and revisit my teaching strategies and modalities.6


Put creativity into practice

Creativity is an extraordinary ability that generates unexpected yet applicable ideas and practices. It's an essential capacity for nurse educators because it enables them to strengthen their problem-solving abilities, improve their teaching, improvise teaching and learning strategies, and improve student learning.12


Creativity could also be considered a channel to bridge the gap between nursing theory and practice. Educators should embrace this capacity and take steps to enhance it over time. The practical strategies discussed in this article can help educators enhance their creativity.




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