Nursing students learn to "teach" patients from teachers, professional mentors

Columbia College-Lake of the Ozarks

Jan. 31, 2014

By Rebecca Martin
The Lake Today

January is National Mentoring Month, a campaign created in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to bring attention to the need for people to mentor young people in positive ways.

The need for a good mentor doesn’t always end with childhood. For hopeful nursing students in the Lake Area, a trusted professional to learn from can be a meaningful asset.
Senior Clinical Instructor Lisa Galeski and Lake of the Ozarks Campus Coordinator Kelli Schnell distribute information about the Columbia College nursing program at a career fair.

Kelli Schnell performs a variety of roles for Columbia College’s nursing program. As coordinator for the program at the Lake of the Ozarks campus, she works as a liaison between the Lake campus and main Columbia campus, and also has been a nursing instructor since 2011.

While performing her organizational duties, Schnell doubles as the lead instructor for the Fundamentals of Nursing course, the first course Columbia College nursing students enter after being accepted to the program.

Columbia College nursing program faculty member Joyce Gentry lectures during the Medical/Surgical course as the May 2014 class of nurses at both the Lake of the Ozarks campus (in the classroom) and the main campus class in Columbia take notes.

 “I’m extremely interested and dedicated to beginning nursing students and helping them move through the program successfully,” Schnell said.

While she has only been with Columbia College since 2011, Schnell has been teaching Fundamentals of Nursing courses since 2000 and has 13 years of experience as an acute care nurse in an Intensive Care Unit prior to that.

“I feel responsible for helping students get off on the right foot and really learn how to study nursing,” she said. “I try very hard to meet with everyone at some point in that session and talk with them about their lives and their dreams for nursing and how they intend to implement their plans. I try to help them focus on what they need to do now in the nursing program in order to best prepare for using this in their future goals.”

Schnell also leads a clinical group for the Medical/Surgical Nursing II class at Lake Regional Hospital.

“I serve as a liaison between staff and students so that students can learn from not only me but the staff, as well as learning from patients. We do encourage the patients to talk about their perspective, and we encourage the students to think about some ideas of how to teach them,” she said. “Nurses teach every day.”

For example, nursing students learn how to teach patients what they need to know about their medications, their disease processes, their diagnostic tests and more, she continued.

While Schnell values her work with the students, she sees the nursing program as a way for students to connect with a variety of mentors in the field. For example, she considers what they can learn from the hospital nurses they meet during clinicals to be invaluable.

“I depend on the staff to provide the students with their current perspective of how things happen at this hospital and at this time in history,” she said. “The students depend on the staff to provide that perspective. Even though I was in the ICU for 13 years, that’s been 13 years ago … There are always technology changes and medication changes. Nursing is changing all the time.”

The Columbia College Nursing Network (CCNN), a 2007 technological development for the college, allows students to connect with even more people they can learn from.

Members of the Columbia College - Lake of the Ozarks nursing class join faculty and staff members from the campus in observing College Colors Day.

CCNN uses interactive audio/visual conferencing to provide in-class lectures to students at the Columbia and Lake of the Ozarks campuses simultaneously. The arrangement is a way to ensure consistency in instruction and curriculum, as well as to allow one lead instructor to teach all students on both campuses about the topic he or she has expertise.

“This has been extremely beneficial for us because we now can designate that lead instructor as the specialist for that course,” Schnell said. “I’m the Fundamentals of Nursing lead instructor. I will be at the Lake campus most of the time during my course, and I’ll have those Lake students in the classroom with me. At the same time, I have the Columbia students in the classroom with another nurse, and I can see and hear and interact with those Columbia students.”

With student test scores improving or remaining consistent at both campuses, the networking program seems to be working.

“I think our clinical sites are really seeing and feeling the success of our students,” Schnell said.