Providing microbiology education to rural nurses: A case study

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Kathryn Castelletto
Elyce Green
Claire Ellen Seaman
Natalie Ellis
Mary-Clare Smith
Thiru Vanniasinkam


case study, education, infection control, microbiology, nurse, rural health


Objective: This case study assesses a microbiology and infection control education workshop delivered to rural nurses. The study assesses workshop value through changes in respondents’ self-assessed confidence using measures of microbiology knowledge, teaching, and best practice. Respondents also identified the aspects of the education perceived as most useful to their practice and barriers to implementing microbiology education in practice.

Study design and methods: Pre- and post-workshop surveys were administered to the participants. The surveys used a 7-point ordinal scale to measure respondents’ confidence in explaining key concepts and their perception of the influence of such education opportunities on positive patient outcomes. Change in ratings was analysed using Wilcoxon signed-ranks tests; whilst the open-ended survey responses were analysed using a manifest content analysis.

Results: All thirteen nurses who participated in the education workshop responded to both surveys. The results demonstrated a significant increase post-workshop in confidence measures and belief that microbiology and infection control education influence positive patient outcomes. The perceived barriers to implementation of microbiology education in practice included poor organisational culture, lack of access to training, and lack of resources.

Discussion: This case study describes a method of providing microbiology education to rural nurses and highlights the benefit of this access, particularly in the mode of face-to-face learning. A suggestion for future iterations of the program is to include content that would support nurses’ implementation of theory to practice.

Conclusion: A face-to-face microbiology and infection prevention workshop, which enables participants to discuss content and undertake a tour of the pathology laboratory for practical insights, enhances nurses’ self-rated confidence on this topic.

Implications for research, policy, and practice: This study demonstrates the significance of microbiology education for rural nurses and describes how this can be undertaken in practice, with insight provided on the most valued aspects. It also shows the importance of supporting in-person education. Future research could address the medium to long terms effects of this education for nurses and their practice.

What is already known about the topic?

  • Access to continuing professional development is difficult for rural nurses, particularly in comparison to their urban counterparts.

  • Nurses hold a vital role in infection prevention and infection control.

  • Increased knowledge leads to positive patient care and positive patient outcomes.

What this paper adds

  • It demonstrates that providing microbiology education to rural nurses increases their confidence in the topical area.

  • It provides an example program for delivering microbiology education to rural nurses.

  • It highlights the benefits of the face-to-face aspect of education and practical component of the laboratory tour.

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