Background. All health care providers, including nurses, need to learn how to improve the care they give. Continuous quality improvement (CQI) is a theory and method used in health care to guide improvement. The question is how best to teach it, particularly to nursing students. It was conjectured that a systematic approach to improve study habits and lifestyle would increase nursing students' awareness of how they handled their studies and, at the same time, became acquainted with improvement knowledge methodology. Using the starting point that ‘quality is personal’, students worked on personal change and improvement. The purpose was to learn methods and tools for improvement in their personal life and enable them to transfer and use this knowledge in their professional work.
Aims. To describe the use of a personal improvement project (PIP) by nursing students and the resulting increased knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to continue working with CQI.
Methods. Forty-four nursing students worked on a PIP, which they felt was important, and presented their projects to fellow students. The students answered a questionnaire, and their presentations documented the results of their work.
Results. All 44 students followed the instructions in a workbook describing PIPs over an 8-week period and answered a questionnaire. Forty-five per cent felt they had made an improvement in their study habits or lifestyle. Eighty-nine per cent reported that this project helped them to start learning CQI, and 75% reported that they could see the benefit of this kind of knowledge in their future clinical practice.
Conclusions. Personal improvement projects seem to be an effective way of introducing CQI knowledge to nursing students. Even those who did not succeed in achieving personal improvement felt they had a positive learning outcome from the project.