KOKOMO, Ind. — Alessandra Smith knew as a future nurse, she would care for patients.
What she did not know was that she would also be a researcher.
She and 50 of her Indiana University Kokomo School of Nursing classmates learned more about what they can expect in their careers, attending the Indiana State Nurses Association (ISNA) conference on campus.
“They talked about how part of being a nurse is researching, and applying your research,” she said. “I’d never considered that aspect before. It was cool how some of what the speakers have talked about has tied in directly to what we’ve learned in class. It’s one thing to learn it in a classroom, it’s another to hear people who do this every day talking about it, and their personal experiences.”
The students attended the ISNA conference for their Sophomore Sojourn, which is part of the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) program. The sojourn provides second year students an opportunity to apply and integrate learning outside the classroom, while building relationships with classmates and faculty. The KEY program includes milestone activities each year, providing incentive for students to progress towards a four-year degree.
Assistant Dean Angela Heckman, who also is ISNA vice president, said conference attendance is experiential learning, an important component of the Sophomore Sojourn.
“These students are experiencing what it is like to be a professional, attending a conference and learning new information to improve their skills,” she said. “They are seeing role models of professional behavior, and hearing some of the same things we tell them in the classroom, from nurses currently working in the field. It validates what they are hearing from us.”
Heckman noted that the conference, hosted in the Kelley Student Center, had its highest attendance ever, with 200 nurses and nursing students attending, and a waiting list of more than 100 people.
“It’s a great opportunity to have it here and showcase our campus,” she said.
Dean Linda Wallace was among the speakers, presenting research about improvements to medication safety training for nursing students. She conducted her research in partnership with a Purdue University nursing faculty member, and implemented changes in IU Kokomo’s School of Nursing based on what she learned.
“They see how this research directly impacted their education,” Wallace said. “It’s nice for them to see that our campus is a key player in the state.”
Nursing student Jill Wasmuth was impressed to see one of her faculty members presenting as an expert, and continuing to learn long into her career.
“She incorporated her research into our program, which gives us better opportunities,” the Kokomo resident said. “Dean Wallace is continuing to find new resources. This conference was a neat opportunity to talk to people from around the state.”
Connor Hill was impressed that nurses were talking about their personal experience with what he’s learning in the classroom.
“We listen to these talks, and what we’re learning, they encounter every day. We’re actually going to use this, this is important,” he said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.