Supporting Microbiology in the Nursing Curriculum

Dec. 8, 2016

Do you teach microbiology to nursing students? Has your institution faced pressure to reduce or eliminate microbiology in its nursing curriculum? ASM is aware of this issue and is taking several steps to address it.

In a letter from the editor in the current issue of the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, Dr. Samantha Elliott of St. Mary’s College of Maryland highlighted the problem and called for more research on the topic. She said, “As front-line caretakers, nursing staff are often responsible for the spread of healthcare-associated infections, and the medical community recognizes these issues.” Yet there is little research on the relationship between microbiology education and clinical practice (Elliott found one article). She pointed out that “We must partner with our clinical colleagues; accreditation agencies will not consider our work seriously without this critical piece. Together, we can make a strong case to maintain microbiology as a mandatory component within nursing education.”

In a letter to the editor in the same issue, microbiology educator Andrea Rediske of the University of Central Florida drew on her experience as a microbiologist and mother of a disabled, medically fragile child to highlight the importance of microbiology education for pre-nursing and pre-allied health students. She called in particular for students to gain an awareness of the ubiquity of microbes in the environment, proper aseptic technique, and infection control practices – all of which can be taught, at least foundationally, in the undergraduate laboratory. Rediske said, “I lend my voice and my personal experience to the multitude of microbiology educators who understand the vital role of the microbiology prerequisite for pre-nursing and pre-allied health students. I also call for greater activism on the part of microbiology educators and administrators alike to advocate the necessity of microbiology as a prerequisite for all pre-allied health students as well as the continued training and emphasis on proper aseptic technique to reduce healthcare-associated infections.”

So, what can you do about this growing problem? ASM is forming a committee that will focus on two-year college programs that have successfully worked with local organizations to retain microbiology in their curriculum. We will use these programs as models in a toolkit to help other two-year programs ensure microbiology stays part of their curriculum.

The end goal is for the Task Committee to create guidelines and offer the toolkit to education programs around the world.

The first virtual meeting of this committee will be in January 2017. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please contact Bethany Adamec. Together, the ASM community can send the message that microbiology is vital to the nursing curriculum as a means of promoting patient safety.

Author: Bethany Adamec

Bethany Adamec
Bethany Adamec is a Science Education Specialist at ASM, where she communicates about ASM’s work in student and faculty professional development, supports the ASM Education Board, and works with colleagues to promote evidence-based education reform.