Aims. The aim of this project was to develop and evaluate an online resource designed to improve the biosciences knowledge of preregistration nursing students.
Background. A number of studies have identified lack of biological subject knowledge and anxiety about studying biosciences as serious problems for nursing students. The availability of a contextualized biological information resource prior to and early in their studies might help to reduce this fear and anxiety.
Methods. The project used an action research approach, involving an initial analysis of the extent of the problems with biosciences encountered by our nursing students, followed by the development and evaluation of a biology-based open learning resource (entitled Headstart) in collaboration with preregistration nursing students and nurse educators.
Findings. The students in this study expressed a high level of concern about studying biology, and perceived this to be the most difficult aspect of their nursing programme (significantly more difficult than nursing practice). A significant correlation was also found between previous level of biological qualification and confidence in passing module tests. Evaluation of the new online resource illustrated the willingness of nursing students to use such a package, and general approval of its content and mode of delivery, despite a number of problems related to computer access and students’ inexperience with information technology.
Conclusions. This project has provided further evidence of the need for additional resources in biosciences for nursing students. It has also illustrated the way in which a targeted online resource has the potential to provide substantial benefits in terms of supporting the nursing curriculum. Whilst further evaluation is needed, the findings suggest that Headstart has the potential to address a number of issues identified both by this study and by previous research in nurse education.