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Problem-based learning in nurse education
  1. Kirsteen Lang,
  2. Ben Parkinson
  1. Nursing and Community Health, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Kirsteen Lang, Nursing and Community Health, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK; kirsteen.lang{at}

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Background and purpose

  • This is a summary of Sharma et al’s study.1

  • Problem-based learning (PBL) is a common learning strategy used in nurse education.

  • During PBL, student nurses solve clinical scenarios and practice-based problems.

  • Previous systematic reviews indicate PBL improves student nurse critical thinking, but the existing reviews are becoming dated and need updating with the latest research.

  • The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to use the latest research to determine the effectiveness of PBL for student learning in nurse education.


Results and areas for future research

  • The review includes 16 studies (published 2001–2021) and 1143 student nurses.

  • Studies were quasi-experimental (n=10) and randomised controlled trials (n=6).

  • PBL was delivered weekly (10–120 min) over several weeks (3–32 weeks).

  • Control groups received traditional learning (n=7), lectures (n=6), demonstration (n=1), clinical learning (n=1) or no intervention (n=1).

  • Studies were based in Iran (n=7), South Korea (n=5), China (n=3) and Taiwan (n=1).

  • Outcome data included critical thinking (n=8 studies), problem-solving (n=3 studies) and self-confidence (n=3 studies).

  • PBL improved student nurse critical thinking, analysis and evaluation more than other learning strategies.

Take home messages

  • The systematic review and meta-analysis provides an important addition to the literature on PBL within nurse education.

  • PBL can improve critical thinking skills, analysis and evaluation by student nurses and may be more effective than traditional learning strategies.

  • The value of PBL for improving student nurse problem-solving and self-confidence is less clear and needs further exploration.

  • Limitations in the review include the small number of countries involved, the focus on certain learning outcomes and the limited information about how PBL was delivered.

  • More research is needed to fully understand the value of PBL in nurse education.

Ethics approval

Not applicable.



  • Twitter @ParkinsonBen1

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.