Charting the future: ChatGPT’s impact on nursing education and assessments

Interactive workshops and user-friendly guides can unlock the potential of ChatGPT in assessment and overcome initial hesitation around its use. Here, Dianne Stratton-Maher looks at ethical and responsible use of generative AI

Dianne Stratton-Maher 's avatar
6 May 2024
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The synergy between ChatGPT and nursing assessments marks a change in how universities shape future healthcare professionals. As nursing educators now face the challenge of creating assessments that go beyond testing knowledge to cultivate critical thinking and effective communication skills, ChatGPT emerges as a virtual tutor, offering personalised guidance and real-time support. This collaboration signals a progressive approach to preparing nursing students, empowering them to navigate the complexities of modern healthcare delivery.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) has been introduced into the classrooms of the University of Southern Queensland’s Bachelor of Nursing first-year course Literacies and Communication for Healthcare. The incorporation of large language models such as ChatGPT represents more than a change; it signifies a leap into the future. This transformative shift aligns with the imperative in the Australian Universities Accord review for the Australian government and universities to unlock the potential of teaching technologies.

In assessments, educators must reassure students about the value of ChatGPT as a tool to enhance their learning experience. For instance, educators can demonstrate how ChatGPT can be used to generate ideas, refine writing structures and enhance grammar and style. By integrating ChatGPT into assessment practices and highlighting its role as a valuable tool, educators enable students to recognise the benefits beyond merely fulfilling assessment requirements.

As educators, it is our responsibility to equip nursing students with the skills they need to navigate this AI-driven landscape responsibly. By integrating AI into their nursing studies and providing education on ethical use, we can ensure that our students are prepared to leverage AI technologies to enhance patient care while upholding academic integrity.

Here are key aspects to consider when incorporating ChatGPT into assessments. 

Ensure first-year nursing students are familiar with ChatGPT

ChatGPT’s AI-driven conversational function demands careful consideration and intentional efforts when integrating it into assessments. 

First-year nursing students, too, will need a foundational understanding of how to use it. Introductory sessions can explain the platform’s interface and capabilities. These sessions serve as building blocks to ensure students grasp the nuances of using ChatGPT in their assessments (as well as to gain theoretical knowledge and its role in their educational journey).

In the Literacies and Communication for Healthcare course, the assessment employed ChatGPT to enrich students’ understanding, gather understanding and stimulate idea generation for their writing processes. Students were also required to incorporate scholarly articles as evidence to support their writing. So the course coordinator created concise instructional videos. These videos guided students in step-by-step demonstrations, clarifying how to access ChatGPT, pose clear and specific prompts, provide examples, experiment with different prompts, give feedback and ensure ethical usage in academic writing. 

Students used ChatGPT not only for idea generation but also for spelling and grammar checks and sentence structure. These resources were easily accessible via the course StudyDesk, the learning management system (LMS) where students access course materials, assessments and resources. 

Embrace ethical integration of ChatGPT in assessments

When ChatGPT is integrated into assessments, questions might arise about the legitimacy of using AI for this purpose. To address these questions, emphasise that ChatGPT can provide valuable assistance and enhance the learning experience and assessments. This assistance includes generating diverse perspectives, offering instant feedback and facilitating deeper exploration of complex topics. Moreover, ChatGPT can prompt students to analyse and evaluate information from various angles, which helps them to refine their critical-thinking skills. By leveraging ChatGPT’s capabilities, educators can create more engaging and interactive learning environments that promote deeper understanding and mastery of the subject matter.

In the Australian educational context, integrating ChatGPT into scholarly assessments requires a meticulous approach to uphold AI ethics principles and ensure integrity, fairness, equity and excellence. Educators play a pivotal role in establishing comprehensive procedures and outlining clear standards that govern the use of ChatGPT and reinforce its ethical foundation.

To accomplish this, educators must instil in students the literacy skills to use ChatGPT responsibly. They should set clear guidelines and teach students how to assess the information generated by ChatGPT, enabling them to ask relevant questions, identify reliable sources and evaluate responses. Transparency is essential; educators should clearly communicate ChatGPT’s role and limitations in assessments. Educators must emphasise the significance of original thinking and accurate citation practices, drawing from scholarly articles and credible sources.

Further, educators should stay updated on emerging AI ethics principles and educational technology best practices through ongoing professional development and collaboration. The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) advises educators to undertake training to ensure that educators have the skills and knowledge to integrate AI technologies effectively into their teaching methods. 

Using ChatGPT in higher education assessments has potential drawbacks, but let’s embrace the opportunity that AI presents for nursing education. The ethical and effective use of AI is not a possibility; it’s a certainty. As our graduates embark on their nursing careers, AI technologies will play pivotal roles in patient care, research and decision-making processes. Banning the use of AI in their undergraduate studies is not the answer to addressing academic integrity concerns; rather, it’s about preparing our students for the realities they will face in their professional lives. 

Dianne Stratton-Maher is a lecturer in nursing in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Southern Queensland.

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