Learning is one of the most important processes in a person's life. As a result, there are different learning environments that have been created throughout the history of mankind to help in the passing of knowledge and skills from one generation to another. Different approaches are therefore used to guarantee that the learner is able to gather as much knowledge and skills as possible. Amongst the learning environments and strategies that are being employed in the modern world is the use of an area of practice as a learning environment. This paper will analyze a hospital setup as a learning environment using different learning concepts and theories and make recommendations on the improvements that need to be made to increase the learning ability of students in such an environment.
The hospital environment requires staff with high competence and with skills that have not only been learnt in class but rather a combination of class work and fieldwork. This has been found to enhance the service delivery of students whom after learning and practicing at the same time, have an ability to join the workforce and provide the necessary skills and expertise to patients. It is therefore important for one to understand that these skills do not come automatically because somebody has been in class. They need to be learnt practically in the field. According to Barnes (1998, p.279-281), the work environment has been going through a revolution, with each new day creating new challenges that requires news skills and modes of approach. Therefore, every person that aspires to be a practitioner in the medical field has a mandate of keeping oneself updated with these challenges and the solutions that can be utilized to solve these challenges.
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The hospital as a learning environment therefore provides an excellent learning setup that allows students to interact one on one with what they have learnt in class in a practical way. For example, nursing students have had an opportunity to practice their learning skills and learn new skills that were not learnt in class while working on internship or doing their normal practical subjects during the duration of their studies. While there is much that have been written in the medical world after thorough research has been carried out by doctors and other medical practitioners, there is a limitation on the depth of their insight that is partly contributed by lack of the necessary vocabulary and partly because of the ever changing medical environment (Barnes 1998, p.279-281).
There are various theories that address the issue of practice area as a learning environment. One of these theories is constructivism. This theory argues that human beings are able to emerge with meaning and knowledge when they are exposed to a certain learning environment that creates an element of experience in them. Simply put, through experience, people are able to come up with meaning and knowledge in a particular area of learning.
This theory continue to argue that the environment from which one learns is very important in helping such a person to be able assimilate knowledge and skills and internalize it easily through observation and participation. The knowledge and skills that are obtained are integrated into the already existing knowledge and skills since in most cases the learner has a preview of this knowledge and skills (Tobias & Duffy 2009, p.184).
Another theory that captures the essence of practice as a way of learning is constructionism. This theory argues that people learn well through participating in the overall learning process. The proponents of this theory compare practical learning with building mathematical models by students in their junior high school. They argue that participating in the overall decision making process while learning induces discipline, responsibility and high level skills in students, providing them an opportunity to integrate these skills into their already formed systems and form a platform for further research in areas that are of interest. Practical learning in this case has been found to come to a conclusion regarding certain practices in the medical field by interacting with them one on one. On the other hand, instructors are given a chance not to lecture but to assist students to be able to learn certain concepts in their filed of study (Leonard 2002, p.37).
The hospital as a learning environment therefore plays a critical role in forming a learning environment whereby students are able to interact and have a physical taste of what they have been learning in class. In most cases, while having worked with cadavers and dressed them, these students usually have a foreknowledge of what they will be facing as practitioners in future. There is however a tendency of human beings becoming used to particular situations in their lives. As a result, they develop assumptions or defensive mechanisms that cause them to assume certain positions that are not correct in their lives. Having been in class and gained certain knowledge and skills, most of this knowledge is based on the fact that these students interacted with dead matter, i.e. the cadavers. However, this is not what they are trained to handle. Instead, these students are trained to handle cases of human beings who are still alive. In this regard, it is important to induce in them a sense of humanity towards the patients that they are expected to treat in future. This can only be developed when they are given that opportunity to rub shoulders with real cases (Chan 2006).
According to Chan (2006, p.677-682), the medical students have an opportunity to integrate the concepts of 'knowing how to' and 'knowing what to do' in their learning system. Learning requires that one is well versed with both of these concepts to be able to deliver quality services to their clients and in this particular case, patients. In most cases, the classroom learning environment helps students to enhance one of the above concepts while the hospital environment aids them to develop the second part of these concepts.
Research shows that urge that spawns interest in investigating further certain concepts in a particular field in the medical world has in most cases stemmed from the fact that students interacted with the actual environment and developed curiosity in certain areas of practice. Therefore, most of them will begin by working on their thesis, dissertations and research paper using the concepts they have leant and providing room for further research in the area that interests them most. This has also been found to develop their respective careers in future.
There is therefore the need for hospitals to align themselves in such as that they are not only places where people go to get treatments for different diseases and ailments but a place where knowledge and skills are passed on from one generation to another. On the other hand, the members of hospital staff have to be trained on different ways of handling students whenever they are working with them. While they are not directly responsible for the learning activities of these students, their responsibility is integrated in the fact that the hospital environment is their area of jurisdiction and as a result, they have to ensure that rules and regulations are strictly adhered to (Brody, Meghani & Greenwald 2009).
There are various ways that can be utilized to ensure that students maximize their time while working and learning in a hospital environment. First, there must be strict rules and regulation through which students are guided on the conduct and behavior while within the hospital premises and while handling patients of different kinds. This arises from the fact that every place has its rules and regulation that forms a backbone on how people are to behave while in such an environment. This is because misbehavior in a hospital environment can be fatal. Therefore, to avoid endangering the lives of patients/clients, the hospital management has to lay down rules and regulations that guide not only the medical staff but also the students who obtain chances of learning by working in any particular hospital. These rules and regulations should not have any leniency towards the students because of their status but rather should be applied as strictly as possible both towards students and the hospital staff. This is because, these students are under training not to pass their exams alone but to be molded into professionals who will be able to offer high quality services to their clients in future and also help develop other professionals thus creating a never ending flow of knowledge and skills from one generation to another (Brody, Meghani & Greenwald 2009).
Roles of medical practitioners
There are various roles that are played by medical practitioners in helping students who have been put under their care. First, medical practitioners have a responsibility of playing a supervision role over these students. It is important to understand that most of the students that use the hospital as a learning environment have theoretical experience of what they are supposed to do but in most cases, they have no idea of what they are supposed to do practically. In this regard, as a medical practitioner, one has the responsibility of supervising every action of the student and how they perform it. This has an advantage both to the practitioner and the student. Effective supervising of the students enables the practitioner to identify special talents that such students have and consequently, the specific areas in the medical world where these students can deliver their services effectively. Having been in the industry for some time, the medical practitioners are aware of specific skills that are needed in specific areas. Therefore, it is easier for them to identify these skills in students and as a result help them to choose the right direction in their careers (Rotem, Du & Godwin 1995).
On the other hand, practitioners have a responsibility of ensuring that work ethics is followed. The safety of their patients is their responsibility. They have a consent of guaranteeing that the lives of their patients is not put at risk but instead, it must be kept secure by following professional work ethics that is laid down for every practitioner in the medical field. As a result, they have to supervise every activity of the students and ensure that their undertakings do not endanger the lives of their patients in any way. While supervising the work of their students, professional practitioners are able to maintain their professional standards through providing excellent and sufficient services to their clients. In this regard, they would be able to continue working as medical practitioners (Brody, Meghani & Greenwald 2009, p.117).
Practitioners also have a teaching role to play. While these students may be from different medical schools within that surrounding and therefore have had different teachers, the medical practitioners have a role of teaching them specific tips and secrets of a particular profession of practice that would guarantee the success of these students in future in their professions. Accordingly, practitioners have a mandate of passing down their knowledge and skills to the next generation through teaching students who are under their care. On the other hand, there is need to maintain professional standards in this environment. Therefore, it is the role of practitioners to teach students under them professional mannerism, as this would guarantee that these students are able to behave in a professional way not only under training but also after their training. It is also important to understand that these students have classroom knowledge and skills and require professional knowledge and skills. Therefore, since there is no one else to teach students these skills, the practitioners have a role to play by guiding them on the specific channels that they need to follow to ensure that they have been able to gain important skills and knowledge in their profession (Rotem, Du & Godwin 1995, p.
There are various recommendations that can be made towards improving the hospital setup as a learning environment. First, since this is a very sensitive setup, the medical world has a responsibility of ensuring that patient safety remains the core goal in their quest to deliver quality services to their clients. In this regard, there must be critical rules and regulations that must be followed to letter, whether by students or practitioners. This requires that every student who learns from this setup is well versed with these rules and regulations. Therefore, training on these rules and regulations is very important.
The hospital management has a responsibility of training their staff on taking responsibility of guiding students under their care on how one should carry out him/herself. While there are different department in every hospital setup, every department has a responsibility not only within the department but also in the whole hospital setup. Therefore, the staff has a command to provide guidance to students irrespective of the department one has been assigned to. This requires that they are well trained on ethics, responsibility and accountability, and leadership in any setup within their working environment.
The process of learning entails different methodologies that have continued to develop over time. Learners have had opportunities to learn both through the theoretical and practical points of view. However, one of the learning methodologies that remain to be of paramount importance is the use of the practice area as a learning environment. There are different environments that have been used as learning environments. Among them is the hospital setup. While the hospital setup have acted as a place where sicknesses are dealt with, it is also a place where ignorance is eliminated. Therefore, both the students and medical practitioners have a duty of behaving accountably if professionalism is to be maintained and if the hospital setup is to remain as a learning environment.
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