Not Simply a Matter of More Knowledge

By Gweneth Doane, RN, PhD

“What you are teaching isn’t what we see happening in the real world!” This commonly experienced practice gap between the ‘real’ and the ‘ideal’ offers a fruitful and engaging site for learning. Extending education and knowledge translation (KT) beyond an individualist, technical approach (where knowledge development is focused toward, and located in, individuals), this in-between learning space inspires a relational, adaptive educational approach – one where learning occurs within/between people and situations – and people, knowledge, values, normative habits and ways of working are transformed.

This in-between relational learning space was the site of a recent KT research project to improve end-of-life (EOL) care in acute medical and residential settings. Entering the practice gap, we enlisted the knowledge capacity of nursing staff, nursing team leaders and clinical educators to undertake a conscious, capacity-oriented inquiry focused on ‘mining’ (not just ‘minding’) the practice gap. Working between ‘good death’ and ‘bad death’ stories we invited people to examine the EOL experience and practice on their unit. Enlisting different mediums (for example, collages, debriefings, workshops, a tour to a funeral home and so forth) a sense of common purpose and learning grew. Staff on one unit described “waking up” to see their practice with “fresh eyes.”

As one of the clinical educators described, “the more we learned the more the ideas flowed and projects were imagined…to watch a staff person go from saying
‘I could never do that’ to spending four hours teaching others how to do it is very rewarding.”

Gweneth Doane is a Professor at the UVic School of Nursing.

From the 2013 Spring Communiqué — Palliative Care