Week 6 Activity 3 – Draft Online Design Plan

Course Title: Therapeutic Communication Skills in Mental Health

Description of Online Teaching and Learning Experience

This course prepares nursing students to communicate therapeutically while working with the mental health population. Mental health is prevalent in healthcare, and the likelihood of people with a mental illness being admitted to medical wards has increased (Avery et al., 2020).. Nurses must acquire specialized communication skills to provide holistic care. The virtual format offers an opportunity for student nurses to apply theory to practice in an online environment. 

Situational Factors

This course will consist of six third-semester nursing students per session to ensure each student has sufficient time to practice applying their skills and gather feedback. The course will run for two hours once a week for six weeks. Students will have the opportunity to review the theory, apply practical skills and end with a debrief. Mental health scenarios will be carried out by actors, providing students with the opportunity to strengthen their communication skills. Students in the program should be familiar with basic concepts in mental health and be emotionally ready to have enriching conversations that can be triggering for some individuals. The course can be anxiety-provoking; hence, it is not designed to penalize students for not speaking a particular way. Instead, it promotes a safe space to think critically, rationalize and try out new communication strategies that may or may not be effective. Instructors must be mental health nurses with at least two years of experience in the mental health field. 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have learned strategies to converse in a shutdown interview. Students will have practiced how to de-escalate an agitated person verbally. Students will be able to assess a patient with schizophrenia who is actively preoccupied. Lastly, students can differentiate which non-verbal cues are used therapeutically and which cues they should refrain from. 

Online Assessment Strategy

Students will apply their practical skills through a virtual role-play simulation, followed by immediate feedback from peers and instructors. Additionally, students will write an APA paper on their goals worth 25%, write a midterm exam worth 30%, write a self-reflection paper worth 30%, actively participate in class discussion and provide peer feedback, worth 15%. 

Teaching and Learning Activities

  • Review case study scenarios as a group to know what to expect in the simulation
  • Discuss theory on content for the week by reviewing questions students answered at home with their pre-readings
  • Participate in role-play simulation to practice the application of therapeutic communication skills
  • Provide immediate feedback to students and expect students to provide feedback to their peers
  • Complete course assignments consisting of academic papers and a midterm exam


The theory provides students with foundational knowledge on diagnosis, presentations and why specific communication skills are encouraged in different scenarios. The case studies will demonstrate an overall picture of the client’s presentation. The role-play simulations will allow students to apply theory to practice. Students will actively engage with actors acting as clients to become familiar with what a real-life situation can comprise. Assessments and feedback from peers and instructors will keep students on track to meet the learning outcomes. 


Avery, J., Schreier, A., & Swanson, M. (2020). A complex population: Nurse’s professional preparedness to care for medical-surgical patients with mental illness. Applied Nursing Research, 52. https://doi-org.ezproxy.tru.ca/10.1016/j.apnr.2020.151232

Dee Fink, L. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from “http://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf

Shea, S.C. (2017). Psychiatric interviewing: The art of understanding (3rd ed.). Elsevier.


Add yours

  1. Hello, Verundeep
    Your course sounds very interesting! A suggestion I would have is to clearly break up your objectives, I think you have 3 there, so you can clearly link each objective with the specific assessment for alignment. In addition, since you recognize the course to be anxiety causing, what specific steps do you have in place to support these students? Looking forward to hearing more!

  2. Hi Verundeep,

    Your draft online design plan explained in detail the meaningful reasons behind the purpose of the course. Furthermore, it clearly breaks down the grading scale. Transparency in grading criteria helps students understand expectations and encourages accountability. However, explaining what key theoretical frameworks, concepts, and practical skills students will learn and apply during the course can provide a comprehensive overview and help students understand the depth and breadth of the course content. Recognizing that course content can sometimes be anxiety-provoking, it’s crucial to incorporate emotional support mechanisms into the design plan. Will you be incorporating any mindfulness or stress-reduction techniques into the curriculum? Or offer flexibility in deadlines or accommodations for students experiencing heightened anxiety?

  3. Hi Verundeep,
    This course would definitely be beneficial to nurses without a solid psych background. I like the use of formative assessment for this content, as it is useful for building skills.

  4. Hi Verundeep,

    I agree with Hannah – a very interesting course and her suggestions sound great. One of your outcomes states “Students will have practiced how to de-escalate an agitated person verbally. ” – I wonder here if students will need to demonstrate something? I am not sure how you assess practice (though perhaps if they provided you with a video of a role-play…but what makes that practice successful?) – so perhaps think about what students will need to do to be successful and demonstrate that success. I also wondered how an APA essay would directly assess any of your outcomes which seemed fairly active (assessing a patient, differentiating, using strategies…). Perhaps if you want them to state a goal and then reflect on that goal – add that as a learning outcome so that students know they will be assessed on it. This is a great start! Michelle

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