HealthJanuary 29, 2017

Benefits of a concept-based curriculum in nursing

Today’s nurses are required to know so much more content, and learn it in a much shorter time. The content saturation often seems overwhelming, for both students and faculty. There is a lot of repetition among the courses. At the same time, some important items fall through the cracks. Today’s nurse also needs to be a generalist, able to transfer his or her knowledge from one bedside scenario to another.

Major academic institutions – including the Institute of Medicine, National League for Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and the Carnegie Foundation – have all called for profound changes in how nursing students are educated in order to address the realities of 21st-century health care.

Moving to a concept-based curriculum in nursing is really the only way to effectively teach students the material they need for the job and to equip them with the critical thinking and collaboration skills they will need to deliver the best patient care.

What does a concept-based curriculum in nursing education look like?

Concept-based learning is an educational method that focuses on the big ideas and teaches students how to organize and categorize information. Content just focuses on facts, while concept focuses on making sense of those facts and the world around us. Instead of the traditional method of learning which concentrates on the ability to recall specific facts in isolation, concept-based learning concentrates on the understanding of broader principles (concepts) that can be applied to a variety of specific examples.

Concept-based learning challenges students to think more critically about the new subjects and situations they encounter by applying prior knowledge and experience. Students must think beyond the facts and connect factual knowledge to ideas of conceptual significance and find relevance.

Nursing leaders are recognizing the merits of a concept-based curriculum to accommodate students’ diverse learning styles, to efficiently deliver increasing amounts of instructional content, and to help them develop the critical thinking skills they need to succeed as nurses.  A concept-based curriculum provides the structured framework to help create the learning outcomes, the instructional delivery and lesson objectives, and the student assessments.

A concept-based curriculum in nursing involves examining concepts that link to the delivery of patient care. During the course of study, students focus on key, prevalent examples, and their interconnected nature. Students learn to recognize features of a condition and begin to apply what they have learned to a variety of situations.

At Wolters Kluwer, for example, our Lippincott nurse educator experts and editors organize our trusted content by concept and exemplar, based on the 58 more commonly taught concepts and nearly 400 supporting exemplars. You can find a list of our concepts and exemplars here. Our Lippincott CoursePoint for Nursing Concepts includes more than 2,500 digital textbook readings, drawing from the following textbooks and organized by concept and exemplar:

The benefits of a concept-based curriculum in nursing education

The potential benefits of a concept-based curriculum are extensive. Here are just a few:

  • Helps students take a more active role in their learning using the “flipped classroom” model of instruction.
  • Streamlines content and eliminates content redundancies across courses.
  • Helps students apply concepts from one situation to another—and make connections between those concepts.
  • Encourages students to see patterns across concepts and use those patterns to deliver care and anticipate risks.
  • Supports systematic observations about events or conditions that influence a problem
  • Encourages students to think at more elevated levels
  • Causes higher levels of retention

And students aren’t the only ones who benefit from making the transition to a concept-based curriculum in nursing. Faculty can reap the benefits, as well. Faculty benefits include:

  • Reduces content overload
  • Faculty becomes less concerned with “covering everything” and can provide more in-depth guidance to students
  • Enables faculty to teach clinical reasoning skills more easily
  • Faculty can meet the needs of diverse learners more effectively
  • Faculty can concentrate on preparing learners for professional success

But don’t just take our word for it. We asked some of our nursing educators with expertise in concept-based curriculum design to provide their insights:

I can see that students are not just memorizing information; they are actually absorbing it. I have been very impressed. Learning the concepts and participating in simulations has forced students to think more critically and creatively. Student nurses have to put the pieces of information gathered from the patient together to consider possible diagnoses and treatments. That is really what nursing is—putting the pieces together in order to save lives.
Tola Plusnick, DNP, RN, CPNP; Assistant Director of the Associate Degree Nursing Program at Weatherford College
Since Plusnick’s program adopted a concept-based curriculum, their outcomes have absolutely improved and they’ve seen good results on our NCLEX scores; their three-year average is well above the national average. Their student retention increased significantly, hospitals are hiring our students immediately, and students are performing well in practice.
We took the leap into a concept-based curriculum, and it absolutely paid off—in spades. Since we’ve adopted a concept-based curriculum and Wolters Kluwer’s solutions, I’ve watched students’ critical thinking skyrocket.
Catherine Freeman, Department Head/Director of Associate Degree Nursing Program at Western Piedmont Community College
Wolters Kluwer gave us the tools to facilitate 21st-century learning and find the missing pieces of the broader conceptual puzzles. When we fully realized how these programs could literally transform our classroom and student learning, we were all in.
Michael Youngwood, MSN; Nurse Educator, Haywood Community College

Is your nursing program ready to transition to a concept-based curriculum? 

We know change can be tough for educators, especially when it comes to learning new technologies and teaching methods. And we know how important it is for nursing instructors to feel confident that they not only have the innovative course material to help their students succeed, but to know there’s a support system they can lean on when they need technological or curriculum help. That’s why Lippincott created our CoursePoint for Nursing Concepts, a concept-based learning curriculum resources is a comprehensive nursing reference that combines the very best in evidence-based nursing education resources and content with cutting-edge adaptive learning, formative assessment and student monitoring tools.

It is the only integrated digital course solution that organizes content around key nursing concepts and provides every student with a personalized, engaging learning experience that is supported by the best evidence-based content from Wolters Kluwer.

CoursePoint for Nursing Concepts organizes superior content by concept and exemplar so your students have everything they need to be successful. What’s more, we’ve included different types of content to meet the needs of diverse teachers and learners. We go far beyond textbook readings—providing you and your colleagues with access to journal articles, animations, videos, curated web links, and case studies, including:

  • More than 500 journal articles from respected journals
  • 98 videos
  • 38 animations
  • 47 interactive case studies
  • 6 interactive tutorials
  • Dosage calculation quizzes
  • Curated web links covering more than 60 different topics
  • Spanish-English glossary
  • Sample heart and breath sounds
  • Movie viewing guides
  • Nursing interview guides
  • Physical assessment guides
  • Procedure checklists
Lippincott CoursePoint for Nursing Concepts video thumbnail
Watch Video

The content you trust for the concepts you teach


With Lippincott CoursePoint for Nursing Concepts, all concepts and exemplars are covered through nursing education resources including the latest, evidence-based content from journals and Lippincott Advisor for Education.


Customizable to meet your curriculum’s specific needs, our flexible platform enables you to tailor the content you trust for the concepts you teach.

Adaptive, measurable

Adaptive Learning, powered by PrepU, helps each student master course concepts while giving you powerful data to measure your students’ progress every step of the way.

Training services and personalized support

To ensure your success, our dedicated educational consultants and training coaches will provide expert guidance every step of the way.

Want to learn more about how to implement Lippincott’s CoursePoint for Nursing Concepts as you transition to a concept-based nursing curriculum?

Get in touch with your local sales rep today. They can walk you through your options and opportunities for the very best in 21st-century nursing instruction.

Contact your sales representative
Lippincott® Nursing Education
Preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s nurses
Back To Top