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Students Work with IECC/OCC Nursing Program to Complete Master's Degrees

Nursing PHotoA new partnership is enabling two master’s degree students to complete their required classroom and clinical teaching experiences under the direction of Illinois Eastern Community Colleges/Olney Central College Nursing faculty.

The IECC Board of Trustees approved agreements with Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., which allowed ISU student Kim Smithenry and SIU student Pauletta Gullett to begin their practicums this spring. Smithenry, of rural Jasper County, is working with nursing instructor Holly Farley at OCC while Gullett, of Robinson, is paired with nursing instructor Brenda Grove at Lincoln Trail College.

“Both universities allow students to choose the faculty and program they want to work with as long as it meets the required standards,” said Tammy Fralicker, Associate Dean of Nursing and Allied Health. “I think it says a lot about our program that they chose to do their practicums here. I think it speaks highly of our faculty in general. We do have a strong program and students are aware of that. They want to work with our faculty members.”

“I heard good things about the IECC/OCC Nursing Program from relatives who have gone through it,” said Smithenry, who will finish her MSN in May. “I also had an opportunity to observe Holly in another class. I really liked her as an instructor and knew I wanted to do my student teaching with her.”

Each university has specific requirements the students must meet. During the semester, both students have observed the IECC/OCC nursing faculty and provided classroom instruction under the guidance of the faculty members.

In addition, Smithenry worked with students during their clinicals.

“Basically, Kim has to do everything a nursing instructor does to graduate,” said Farley, of Newton. “She is getting a good understanding of what an instructor does before she goes out into the job market.”

Smithenry is currently employed at St. Anthony Hospital in Effingham. It was while working there as a charge nurse that she realized she wanted to pursue a career as a nursing educator.

“I really liked working with the younger nurses on their skills,” she said. “I liked mentoring them and watching them grow into competent nurses providing quality care.”

Smithenry has enjoyed working with the OCC students as well.

“I like interacting with the students and showing them how to do new skills. I also like helping to build their self-confidence and critical thinking and judgment skills,” she said. “The students have been great. They have treated me like an instructor and come to me with questions, which is nice.”

For Smithenry, the experience has provided her with valuable tools she can utilize as an instructor.

“I learned how the program is run,” she said. “They do team teaching here, and I really like that. I’ve enjoyed working with Holly as well as OCC instructor Cheryl Dill. I know I have learned a lot from them.”

To complete her requirements, Gullett had to develop a classroom presentation on congestive heart failure, which also had to meet the IECC/OCC Nursing Program’s modules and concepts. Grove, of Bridgeport, provided input and encouraged Gullett to address all learning styles. Gullett created a presentation that included not only Powerpoint, but also incorporated use of the simulator mannequin, giving students hands-on experience.

“We met in different sessions together to review the requirements and to ensure we met the objectives,” Grove said. “She really went beyond what she needed to.”

Gullett is appreciative of Grove’s assistance.

“Brenda has been excellent,” she said. “She had a lot of good ideas and was very helpful and encouraging. She and Tammy Fralicker have both been wonderful. I can’t say enough about the program and those two especially.”

Gullett has taught CNA classes for several years and currently oversees the Certified Medical Assistant, Electronic Medical Records and Pharmacy Technology programs at LTC.

“I love my job, but my ultimate goal is to be teaching at the RN level,” she said.

Gullett enjoyed interacting with the LTC students.

“Some of the students I had in my CNA class so I already knew about a third of them,” Gullett said. “Watching their progression from CNA, to LPN to RN has been fun. The students are very accepting of me doing things. They are an excellent group. They are very willing to work and are very interactive.”

Gullett is grateful for the opportunity to complete her coursework at LTC.

“IECC has been wonderful to work with me,” she said. “Everyone in the nursing program has been so accepting of me as a student, making sure I could complete the experiences I needed and working around my schedule. They have been very accommodating. I think it is amazing they allow us to do this through the nursing program. If they didn’t, it would be very difficult for us to finish our education.”

The IECC/OCC Nursing Program is benefiting from the partnership too.

“We could see what other schools were requiring of their nursing students and the concepts they are covering,” Grove said. “It was a good opportunity to see that we are on the right track. I was excited to learn the things we really say are so important they are still visiting with the students at the more advanced level. Even though we are not teaching students at the level of a master’s degree program, the way we are teaching and getting students prepared is where it needs to be.

“I’ve really enjoyed the experience and I am interested in doing it again,” Grove said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for me and a really enjoyable task.”

Farley added, “It’s been fun. I liked getting to know Kim. It’s nice to have someone who has been working in a hospital and can bring a fresh perspective. She has brought ideas to us on what they are doing in the hospitals. It’s been a benefit to have her with us.”

With the current shortage of nursing educators, Fralicker said the IECC/OCC Nursing Program is excited to work with the universities and assist students in completing their master’s degrees.

“I have heard nothing but positives from both experiences,” she added. “The faculty are happy with the arrangements and the students are happy too. We hope we can work with more students in the future.”

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