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Textbook Selection in Nursing Education

Updated: Jul 20

Unity within learning resources allows for clear relationships between course components, while fluidity in class processes and resources encourages flow from topic to topic. As resources such as textbooks are integrated into each nursing student's unique plan for study—one that works best for their individual learning needs—planning and purposeful selection of materials can promote seamless transitions between academic experiences and nursing practice. Prudently incorporated tools carry significant value and purpose; therefore, educators seeking to up-skill can join strengths with peers to ensure effective selection. Because the nurse educator works closely with communities of learners, they can use their intimate understanding of their needs to help shape and customize learning resources and activities. In this post, we share some of our thoughts on reviewing and adopting a course textbook—a very important and influential undertaking.

While choosing a textbook for a nursing course, the educator brings an understanding of the course material and the expected outcomes to select a body of work that meets the development needs at a given academic level. Learning resources are selected to support the intended competencies to be gained by successful completion of the course, while providing logical flow module-to-module to build upon previous learning. Planning for use of a textbook requires adequate research, not only pertaining to the material within the text, but also the manner in which the material is outlined and available to the learner, along with how the text can be integrated into assessment and evaluation. The nurse educator ensures that the book strongly aligns with the curriculum, reflects the program's philosophy, balances current nursing and healthcare trends, involves an inclusive design, and meets community and societal needs to successfully prepare graduates for practice. A timely and student-level appropriate text can directly influence the ability to comprehend, retain, and apply information.

When considering how the text will fit in with the overall course design, it can be helpful to select a resource that provides a diverse collection of materials and activities. Some offerings we find helpful include: interactive scenarios that complement chapter topics, case studies with research briefs, nursing practice examples, high-quality chapter summaries, up-to-date assessment items, prompts for reflection, and comprehensive instructor resources. The text should use current references from the past 5 years ideally, but at least the past 10 years, and should be published by a reliable publisher within the last few years, if possible. It should include current, relevant examples that are backed by nursing research and stimulate critical thinking. Reviewing differences between editions of a given text can help with selection, along with developing guidance for students that may have access to an earlier edition. Illustrations that align with the text are also very useful and, in many ways, absolutely necessary, especially when they include meaningful and relevant detail that helps students form connections with the material.

Additional considerations involve accessing the textbook, such as the financial cost, internet access where applicable, the size and weight of a hard copy, and accessibility across bundled resources. Depending on how the book in intended to be used and integrated into the course, especially if it will be expected that this text be available in class and clinical, access to a digital copy of the material may be wise to consider. It can also be helpful to check on possible discounts that may be offered through the publisher, especially when coordinating with peers in the department leads to ordering multiple books. Overall, selecting a text with options can help meet a variety of needs, and since each student has their own style of interacting with the course text, selecting a quality resource that fits many situations can be key. At times, opting for an unbundled resource and finding engaging supplementary materials may offer the flexibility needed. Also, looking for open-access resources that complement the text, along with reviewing whether or not cost-bearing membership is needed to access available online tools, can help provide a comprehensive look at the total financial involvement.

Faculty participation in curriculum development aimed at meeting the shifting needs of the student learner and the nursing profession, results in curriculum that remains forward-facing. A well-selected course textbook supports expected outcomes that target the development of ethical practice, integration of nursing theory, and growth of professional nursing care. As nurse educators are presented with opportunities to choose appropriate teaching-learning tools, such as quality textbooks, they can use knowledge of history and current academic trends as a foundation for making recommendations. If selecting textbooks is new for the educator, or they are working with a new team or in a different educational setting, it can be constructive to observe fellow nurse educators and connect with mentors to embrace opportunities to learn best practices and hone this skill. Asking colleagues for suggestions can be very helpful. The nurse educator may find useful ideas from peers inside and outside of the institution, so it can be important to ask around. Lifelong learning to promote one's socialization to the nurse educator role is ongoing and significantly evolves as experience is gained. Selecting a course text that considers the needs of the students, community, and society, encourages the development of real-world knowledge for current and future applications to practice.