A patient blog can be rich with opportunities for learning about emotional, spiritual and psychosocial complications of disease.

Why a blog in a nursing flipped classroom?

So, let’s start at the beginning: what is a blog? A blog is simply a website that an individual or small group writes.  It is written in an informal, informative style and allows the writer to connect with the reader by sharing.  You are reading a blog right now!  I have always felt weird about the word blog (maybe that’s part of my Generation Y upbringing and the slight discomfort I still have with technology), so I named this place the Idea Bank.  But at its core, it is a blog, and I shouldn’t deny that any longer.

A blog is a common communication tool for patients.

The blog’s informal style and easy accessibility make it a prime location for sharing a medical journey.  Patients may start writing to communicate with far-away family members, to share their experiences with others who have the same condition, or as a kind of cathartic journaling about their illness. For nurse educators, these online, diary-like entries can be an excellent place for students to practice the therapeutic communication skill of listening.  

I believe that we can teach students empathy. But we must be intentional about how we present these opportunities. For another idea about how to teach caring in the classroom, check out the Empathy Map.

How to incorporate a blog into your theory course

Start by choosing a classroom topic.  I started using this activity in my classroom session on leukemia and lymphoma.  For this content, we focused on basic pathophysiology, chemotherapy complications, and oncological emergencies.  But I felt like it was missing the emotional, spiritual, and relationship components related to the care of the oncological patient.   

Let the students locate the blog.  They are expert internet searchers, and I have never had an issue with a student unable to locate a patient blog.  You can add variety to your assignments; for example, I would assign adult leukemia, pediatric leukemia, adult lymphoma and, pediatric lymphoma to different groups, which allowed me to add lifespan considerations to the discussion.  

Assign students to complete the “Blog Investigation” Worksheet.  Here is the link to download this template, and you can modify it as you need.  The purpose of this activity is to highlight the psychosocial aspects of nursing care, so feel free to include areas that you see students struggle.  The investigation can occur during class time, as part of a group, or as an individual activity outside of class.

Research a Blog Worksheet

Getting deep learning from reading a patient blog

Group discussion is helpful to debrief this nursing flipped classroom activity.  Consider putting students in small groups with various conditions (think one adult leukemia, one pediatric lymphoma, etc.) and have them share their worksheets.  You could also use a large group discussion format.

The deep learning for this activity comes when the instructor can connect this worksheet to nursing theory.  Have students create a care plan (using your school’s care plan paperwork – no need to re-invent the wheel) for the patient they encounter in the blog.  Pull out assessment findings that the patient shares (skin changes, hair loss, lab value abnormalities, mucositis) and use them to identify a priority problem with appropriate nursing interventions.  Discuss medications and therapies and why.  Finally, ask questions about how the students could show empathy and care towards this patient or their family.

One aspect that is great about this activity is that the experiences of patients are so varied.  Some have excellent care, respond to treatment, and follow up as outpatients. On the other hand, some journeys are full of complications.  Sometimes a patient may die.  But these are all outcomes that nurses can and should prepare and plan for in providing patient care.

This nursing flipped classroom activity will take about 20-30 minutes for discussion and care plan development.

Nursing students collaborating in an active classroom.

Variation to use this activity in clinical

This can be a great alternative to a slow clinical day.  I know, I know – slow clinical days are as rare as unicorns, but you may encounter downtime depending on the unit or the census.  Assign students to locate a blog and complete the worksheet for a blogger who has the same condition as the patient they are caring for in clinical that day.  For example, you assign your student an elderly patient with CHF exacerbation – great!  Instruct the student to find a blog for a pediatric patient with CHF due to a congenital abnormality. 

Next, have the student compare and contrast these patients.  What pathophysiology is the same?  What assessment findings are different?  Is weight still important to monitor?  What medications are each taking, and how much?  This type of activity helps students scaffold their knowledge and build their ability to care for a variety o patients.  They have a foundation of CHF knowledge in their brains; now, they are constructing a little staircase that connects that foundation to a new room that houses their pediatric knowledge.  

Once the activity is complete, have students share their compare and contrast findings in post-conference.

What content is this activity best for?

This nursing flipped classroom activity works best when teaching conditions with high psychosocial complications.  Any oncology content, chronic conditions like diabetes, or long-term disease process works best when looking for a blog. For example, patients will not blog about their cholecystectomy or tonsillectomy because it is acute and resolved in a few days. 

In conclusion

  • A patient blog can provide nursing students with an interesting patient perspective as they go through an illness.
  • Choose a content topic with high psychosocial impact, such as a chronic condition.
  • Use the “Research a Blog” link as a template to build your worksheet that gives students a framework as they work through the blog.
  • Debrief the activity and connect the patient’s experience to nursing theory by connecting pathophysiology, pharmacology and care planning.

Did you know we have a community?

Head over to the ACTIVE LEARNING STRATEGIES FOR NURSE EDUCATORS Facebook group for more ideas and inspiration!

Martha Johnson is the charge nurse over at BreakoutRN

Martha Johnson MSN, RN, CEN

Charge nurse over at BreakoutRN with a focus on helping other nursing educators transition from lecture to active learning.  She believes it does not have to be hard or overwhelming, just take it one activity at a time 💜

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