Background: Nursing research has concentrated on empirical knowing with little focus on aesthetic knowing. Evidence from the literature suggests that using visual art in nursing education enhances both clinical observation skills and interpersonal skills. The purpose of this review was to explore how visual art has been used in baccalaureate nursing education. Methods: Of 712 records, 13 studies met the criteria of art, nursing and education among baccalaureate nursing students published in English. Results: Three quantitative studies demonstrated statistical significance between nursing students who participated in arts-based learning compared to nursing students who received traditional learning. Findings included improved recall, increased critical thinking and enhanced emotional investment. Themes identified in 10 qualitative studies included spirituality as role enhancement, empathy, and creativity. Conclusion: Visual arts-based learning in pre-licensure curriculum complements traditional content. It supports spirituality as role enhancement in nurse training. Visual art has been successfully used to enhance both critical thinking and interpersonal relations. Nursing students may experience a greater intra-connectedness that results in better inter-connectedness with patients and colleagues. Incorporating visual arts into pre-licensure curriculums is necessary to nurture holistic nursing practice.
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