Science knowledge needed for nursing practice: A cross-sectional survey of Australian Registered Nurses

Melanie Birks, Nicholas Ralph, Robyn Cant, Ylona Chun Tie, Elspeth Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Nursing practice is underpinned by science knowledge. While the literature is consistent in identifying limitations in teaching science content to nurses, there is a lack of consensus regarding what should be taught and to what level of detail. No studies to date have systematically surveyed registered nurses (RNs) for their perspectives about the science knowledge that should underpin nursing practice. Aim: To establish the relative importance RNs place on science content taught to nurses. Method: Practicing RNs across Australia were invited to participate in a cross-sectional survey administered online. The survey asked participants to prioritize 179 science topics according to the relative importance of each item to nursing practice. Findings: A total of 1583 RNs completed the survey. Participants indicated strong support for the inclusion of foundational science knowledge in undergraduate pre-registration nursing programs. The majority of topics (88%) were rated as a 'high priority' (a rating of 4 or 5), particularly anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology. No topic received a rating of less than 3 (of a possible 5). Discussion: RNs expressed different views about the prioritization of science content areas for nursing practice compared with the views of academics who teach science to nursing students. Identification of the science content areas that RNs regard as high priority for nursing practice can be used to guide improvements in nursing curriculum development. Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate that practising RNs place high value on various science topics and the teaching of biological sciences generally. This study suggests the need for greater inclusion of key stakeholders, including practicing RNs, when integrating bioscience within nursing curricula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-215
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Baccalaureate nursing education
  • Bioscience
  • Curriculum design
  • Nursing curriculum content

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