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New hands-on project enhances nursing students’ learning

New hands-on project enhances nursing students’ learning

To Jennifer Ross, a lecturer in the Nursing Department, introducing a new applied learning project into her course curriculum just made sense.

As a hands-on learner herself, and as an employee at a college that greatly emphasizes applied learning in its programs, Ross felt that first-year students in her Nursing I course could greatly benefit from a hands-on experience, rather than just listening to a lecture. At the time, the students were learning about growth and development of patients at different stages in their lives.

“I am a hands-on learner and I felt that, with so many of our students being very young, it might be harder for them to have a perspective on caring for patients as nurses without actually seeing how the information they are learning relates to the human body at the different stages,” Ross said.

Hands-on learning is a major component of Alfred State nursing, as students learn by working with manikins and other state-of-the-art equipment, as well as by taking part in clinical rotations at area hospitals. First-year students at this stage in their academic careers, however, have had little to no experience with patients so far.

For the new project Ross created, 15 guests from different age groups were invited to come to the nursing facilities on campus to be examined by students. The age groups included infants, toddlers, pre-kindergarten, school-age, adolescent, young adult, and middle aged.

The “patients” provided basic medical information beforehand that Ross used to create medical charts for the students to use. Students were then divided into 15 groups of six, with each group interviewing and performing a health assessment of one patient. 

“If they were done interviewing, they could move on and observe the other interviews that were going on,” said KathyAnn Sager, co-chair of the Nursing Department. “And then they reported on what they learned to the whole group.”

The project, Ross said, aligned with what the students were learning in class concerning the different age groups, including their nutritional needs, their sleep needs, milestones they should be achieving, etc.

“It’s just establishing each age group’s issues, concerns, what we expect, and what happens if they don’t reach a milestone,” Ross said.

At first, the students were a little shy about speaking to their patients, Ross said. After a while, however, they eased up and “got so much more information” than Ross thought they would, which they were very excited to share with the entire group.

“They spent 40 minutes with their patient and by the end, you could see they were much more comfortable, and that’s where the fun began,” she said. 

Sager noted that, through this project, Ross was able to take learning to the next level.

“She took it to student-led vs. faculty-led and that’s where the next generation of learning is going to happen. It’s with the hands-on, student-to-student-led, and that’s what this was,” Sager said.

Reflecting on the project, Ross said she was very grateful to all of the support she received from her fellow nursing faculty members, as well as the patients themselves. In addition to support, she also received plenty of positive feedback from students.  

“They ended up having a lot of fun with this project and it was a really good learning opportunity,” she said.

nursing students around a bed with a child sitting on it
First-year nursing students interview a volunteer “patient” during a brand-new applied learning project.