KOKOMO, Ind. — As Jenica Longfield changes her patient’s wound dressing, Sara VanLue stands close by, watching and offering instruction as needed.
At the end of the shift, Longfield, a nursing student at Indiana University Kokomo, leaves satisfied she has grown in her clinical experience.
“I’m not with six or other students, it’s just me and the nurse,” she said. “I get to care for the patient myself, with a nurse teaching me the right way to do it.”
Longfield, from Reading, Michigan, is one of 55 juniors from the School of Nursing learning in the new Dedicated Education Units (DEUs) at Community Howard Regional Health.
Angela Heckman, clinical associate professor of nursing, said the DEUs offer nursing students a chance to work side-by-side with registered nurses, who are also trained volunteers that work with one student at a time.
“Our students go there like they are going to work,” she said. “They’re with a nurse for a 12-hour shift, and are treated as a member of the health care team.”
Student Alison McIntire said she’s learned more from her DEU experience than in traditional clinicals, which has one faculty member working with several students.
“In a group setting, we had one instructor who had to split her time between eight to 10 students,” she said. “Everyone agreed that after the first day in the DEU we had learned more than we did in an entire semester before this.”
Cassandra Cooper, R.N., works with McIntire, and believes the experience is good for the students, the nurses, and the patients.
“Reality teaches you a lot more than books,” Cooper said. “We’re preparing our future nurses for what it is like to work in a hospital. As a nurse, it makes me slow down and think about what I’m doing and how to explain it. The students give us an extra set of hands, which is always good for patient care.”
McIntire appreciates the chance to be a nurse, rather than an aide. She’s given medication, witnessed a heart catheterization, and can follow patients from check in through their procedures and recovery. As students provide care, a registered nurse is right there, to check and double check that each task is performed correctly.
“I’ve been able to do a lot more skilled care than ever before,” McIntire said. “I can do it with confidence, with a nurse right there. They’ve all been really good about explaining things to us.”
Longfield enjoys the hands-on learning opportunity she’s had in the DEU.
“The nurse is there with me, but I’m the one doing the care,” she said. “I feel like I’ve learned more. When I can do it myself, instead of watching someone else do it, I learn more from it.”
VanLue, her supervising nurse, said it does take her a bit longer to do her job while teaching a student, but she is glad to put in that effort.
“As I near the end of my nursing career, I really feel an urgency to pass on what I have learned,” she said. “For me, it’s worth it, because I know I am preparing someone who may care for me someday.”
She stands by the hands-on teaching method.
“It’s like the difference between watching a movie, or being part of the action,” she said. “If you’re a tactile learner, you have to get in there and do it.”
Heckman is thankful for the partnership with Community Howard Regional Health to make this experience possible, and for the nurses who have volunteered to serve as instructors. Many of them are IU Kokomo alumni, she added.
The experience benefits both the students and the patients.
“Our students get a feel of what it’s really like to be a nurse on that unit, and see if it is the right fit for them,” she said. “It’s also a foot in the door for potential employment. On the hospital’s side, it is a chance to see possible future employees at work.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.