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Learning Theories and Their Usefulness to Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)

Learning is an integral part of an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN). It is the foundation for understanding patients and improving patient-care skills and competencies (Çeliköz et al., 2016). An advanced practice nurse should comprehend patients’ mental, behavioral, and emotional patterns. To cater to these healthcare demands, APN should be apprised of the relevant learning theories that allow them to understand patient care dynamics (Bastable, 2017). Understanding learning theories is significant to influencing behavior, and creating and emotional connection with patients.  Cognitive, behaviorist and social learning theories are the principal psychological and motor learning theories useful to APNs’ delivery of patient care.

The cognitive theory looks at what happens in the learner’s mental functions and does not ignore the external environment’s influence. APN benefits from this theory since it helps them understand the internal operations of their thought process. The theory asserts that internal thought processes and external factors are essential for cognitive functions (McSparron et al., 2019). Therefore, this learning theory’s applicability is a bidirectional mechanism where an APN develops self-thoughts and patients’ skills. The understanding of one’s thought process is significant in the reconstruction of learning paradigms. The theory is broken into sub-theories that addresses specific learning and understanding elements. APN uses this theory to understand patients’ patterns and construct appropriate care procedure that matches high-quality care-delivery.

Behaviorist theory focuses on observable events and connects them to learning principles. According to behaviorists, leaning is an association between stimulus conditions and the environment. Hence the view depends on a stimulus-response model of understanding. It connects individuals’ behaviors to the environment’s influences and detaches the internal factors that stimulate learning (Çeliköz et al., 2016; Illeris, 2018). APN use this theory to learn how to change their attitudes and responses to different patient situations, thus improving care. To achieve the desired patient outcomes, APN uses behaviorist learning theory to observe a patient’s response to the environment and manipulate the external stimuli to achieve the desired learning outcomes.

The social theory maintains that learning is an observable event, and people acquire new behaviors by imitating observable actions from others. It is a continuous learning paradigm that capitalizes on cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences from others. Before imitating observed behaviors, people evaluate and perform a reinforcement analysis to assess the new behaviors’ consequences. If other people are positively rewarded, they mimic the learning process and learn from others’ successes (Akers & Jennings, 2016). APN learn from experienced practitioners on the best approaches to improving patient care. If particular care yields the best results, then APN realizes the rewards of the process and integrates them into patient care.

In conclusion, learning is a fundamental aspect of patient care, and Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) should prepare to implement it in delivering high-quality patient care. There are many learning theories implemented by APNs in improving quality, and each has a significant function in the construction of learning behaviors. However, the most used theories applied by APNs include Cognitive, behaviorist, and social learning theories. These theories generally look at internal thought processes, the external environment’s influences, and personal changes.

References

Akers, R. L., & Jennings, W. G. (2016). Social learning theory. Wiley Handbooks in Criminology and Criminal Justice, 230-240.

Bastable, S. B. (2017). Nurse as educator: Principles of teaching and learning for nursing practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Çeliköz, N., Erişen, Y., & Şahin, M. (2016). Cognitive learning theories. Learning and teaching: Theories, approaches, and models, 31-45.

Illeris, K. (2018). Contemporary theories of learning: learning theorists… in their own words. Routledge.

McSparron, J. I., Vanka, A., & Smith, C. C. (2019). Cognitive learning theory for clinical teaching. The Clinical Teacher16(2), 96-100.