A loss of bioscience knowledge in nursing students

Schaffer, Sally, Doggrell, Sheila, Polkinghorne, Adam, & Tuli, Rinku (2014) A loss of bioscience knowledge in nursing students. In ANZAHPE 2014 Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators, 7-10 July 2014, Gold Coast, Australia. (Unpublished)


Background: Knowledge of the human biosciences is fundamental to the development of competent nurse practitioners (Smales, 2010) with the requisite knowledge and skills, necessary for high quality patient care and good patient outcomes (Logan and Angel, 2011). Many of these students study bioscience units which cover topics in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and microbiology. Studies of science recall in general and medical education, report up to 33% loss of knowledge in the first year which declines to 50% in the subsequent year (Custers, 2010).

Objectives: The objectives were to test the recall of bioscience knowledge by nursing students and to ascertain their perceptions of the testing.

Questions explored: What would the results be for multiple choice questions in fundamental microbiology and gastrointestinal anatomy and physiology (A&P) undertaken by nursing students 4, 9 and 16 months after their first bioscience exam on these topics? Would pre-warning the students of a microbiology quiz and not a gastrointestinal A&P quiz affect the findings? How would the students respond to the testing when surveyed?

Recall results: The nursing students performed better in the final exam on gastrointestinal A&P than on fundamental microbiology. There was an approximate 20% loss in knowledge of gastrointestinal A&P after 4 months and this did not change significantly over the next 12 months. Although there was an improved performance in microbiology quizzes after 4 months, there was no significant difference in results over the next 12 months.

Survey results: More than 50% of students thought the testing helped them focus for the lectures and made them aware they had some pre-knowledge of the lecture topics.

Discussion: Although there was a loss of knowledge of gastrointestinal A&P, it appears that warning the students about the microbiology quiz may have helped their recall. The majority of students valued the testing as a useful learning exercise.


Custers, E. J. F. M. (2010). Long-term retention of basic science knowledge: a review study. Advances in Health Science Education, 15, 109-128. Smales, K. (2010). Learning and applying biosciences to clinical practice in nursing. Nursing Standard, 24(33), 35-39.

Logan, P.A., & Angel, L. (2011). Nursing as a scientific undertaking and the intersection with science in undergraduate studies: implications for nursing management. Journal of Nursing Management, 19(3), 407-417.

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ID Code: 76364
Item Type: Conference Item (Poster)
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Bioscience, Nursing students
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NURSING (111000) > Nursing not elsewhere classified (111099)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Biomedical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Please consult the authors
Deposited On: 30 Sep 2014 23:18
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2014 23:18

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