• Nursing Schools Explore Their Creative Side

    By Jennifer Larson, contributor

    To meet the needs of a growing population with increasingly complex healthcare needs, the nursing workforce of the future will need to be prepared…for almost anything. They must be able to communicate effectively, work well with others, stay abreast of the latest technology and be familiar with the most up-to-date clinical information.

    So nursing schools are getting creative. They’re devising new ways of capturing their students’ interests and compelling them to challenge themselves.

    Here is a look at some of the innovative approaches to education taken by several U.S. nursing schools:

    A little friendly competition

    Amy Hite, DNP, FNP-BC, ONC, and Kristi Frisbee, MSN, are developing well-earned reputations for being creative in the classroom — or outside the classroom, as the case may be here.

    In the fall of 2012, Hite and Frisbee launched the first Nursing Safety and Mobility Olympics at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan., to give the students from their Techniques in Nursing course the chance to show off their skills during a little friendly competition. They didn’t tell their students in advance exactly what they had planned, but they did suggest that they might want to wear sneakers to class.


    Nursing Safety and Mobility Olympics, September 2012
    Students from Pittsburgh State University in Kansas compete in the school's first Nursing Safety and Mobility Olympics in September 2012.


    On the day of the competition, eight clinical groups formed teams and competed against each other in events that included safely and efficiently transporting a “patient.” They earned points for proper safety techniques and lost points for forgetting to maintain the modesty of their “patient” and neglecting the proper transport of IV tubing and poles. They cheered each other on, but they didn’t lose sight of the goal, which was to demonstrate the mastery of the skills they had been studying.

    “They understood from the beginning that doing this wasn’t just about fun,” said Hite.

    Other examples of Frisbee and Hite’s willingness to be creative to engage their students: Frisbee is also known for creating a game called Urano. She hands out Bingo cards and asks students to track many of the important terms that she mentions during her lecture on urinary care. (Yes, there are prizes.). And Hite presides over an intense nursing-themed Family Feud on the last day of the course.

    Frisbee and Hite hope that their students will apply the lessons they learned from their course to the challenges they will face in the workplace, where they may need to draw upon their own creativity.

    “Nursing is up for the challenge of coming up with solutions, and I’m up for the preparation of students to meet those challenge,” said Frisbee.

    Continuing education, delivered where nurses work

    The University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Nursing has long used simulation training to help nursing students learn more about situations that they may encounter at or beyond the bedside. Now the school is taking simulation on the road to nurses who are already on the job.

    UConn recently debuted a state-of-the-art, custom-designed nursing simulation and training van that travels around the state and provides education for correctional nurses in 16 Department of Correction facilities. The 40-foot vehicle is the nation’s first correctional nursing simulation van.

    “The more education that we can offer to correctional nurses, the higher quality of care they can deliver,” noted assistant clinical professor Denise Panosky, DNP, RN, CNE, CCHP, FCNS.

    Deborah Shelton, PhD, RN, NE-BC, CCHP, a former professor at UConn and now a professor at West Virginia University, was the catalyst. After she proposed a partnership between UConn Health Center’s Correctional Managed Health Care (CHMC) division and the Department of Correction, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded a $1.1 million grant for the project.

    It can be hard for corrections nurses to find time to leave their workplace to receive continuing education, noted interim dean Regina Cusson, PhD, APRN. The van will make it much easier by taking the education to them. It will travel around and provide training sessions that simulate medical and mental health emergencies that frequently occur in a correctional setting.

    How it works: Teams of corrections nurses will participate in a 90-minute training session. They will practice their skills during a simulated scenario, then get the opportunity to debrief afterward with the staff.

    “It can also lead to better patient outcomes because the nurses will really know what to do, even if they’ve never encountered it in their actual practice before,” said Cusson.

    A celebration of the nursing journey in the written word

    Sometimes, a little introspection can be as important to the learning process as the clinical and classroom experiences.

    Each spring, the Yale University School of Nursing (YSN) hosts an annual creative writing contest. The awards, which are judged by respected writers such as Anna Quindlen and Richard Selzer, recognize the work that students have written during their time at Yale.

    The idea for the YSN Creative Writing Awards grew out of a box of papers stored in the office of professor Linda Pellico, PhD, APRN.

    Every year, Pellico encourages her graduate students to keep a journal. The journals are not graded. Pellico doesn’t even require the students to submit them or hand them in. They are entirely for the benefit of the students, to help them on their journey toward becoming a nurse. She urges them to reflect on the ups and downs of their clinical experiences — and then to write down their thoughts.

    But her students often share their stories with her — and they’ve done so for years. That was her inspiration for the contest. “I had all these stories sitting underneath my desk,” Pellico remembered. “And I started to say, ‘We need to celebrate these stories and get them out there.’”

    The only rule is that the entries must be relevant to nursing in some way, but the specifics are left up to the student.

    “People can see the richness of nursing through these stories,” said Pellico. “Our stories tell the impact of nurses on patients, on families and on communities.”

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