Nursing department assesses changes

Jackie Krawczyk (‘18) during a wound care lab during her sophmore year.

Ashley Veeser (‘18) / Photo Bureau

Ashley Veeser (‘18) / Photo Bureau

Jackie Krawczyk (‘18) during a wound care lab during her sophmore year.

Shasa Sartin, Staff Writer

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In response to the 50 percent retention rate for students in the nursing program’s 2017 class, students and faculty are reflecting and improving upon a series of previous changes made to the program in 2013. The 2017 class will be the first to graduate under the changed program.

In fall of 2013, the Nursing Department implemented changes to its curriculum due to issues with students having to learn skills while simultaneously practicing them in Rochester. The program was changed so that the skills previously taught in Rochester during the junior year of the program were taught on campus during the sophomore year.

Associate Professor of Nursing and department head La Donna Dale McGohan (‘95) said there are many advantages to the changes in 2013.

“Revising the nursing curriculum [in 2013] addressed several crucial factors being driven by multiple strong forces influencing the nursing role: scientific advances, changing demographics of patient populations, new care technologies, emphasis on patient safety and patient access to healthcare information,” McGohan said.

Erika Buchholz (‘17) was one of the students that experienced this new curriculum.

“The first time [nursing majors] had their clinical experience was when they were up at Mayo [Clinic],”  Buchholz said. “They sort of shifted everything so the junior year became the sophomore year when I was a student, and so we did most of those classes and got the groundwork done as sophomores. So, by the time we went to Mayo our junior year, we already had all of those skills.”

Although the class of 2017 experienced a 50 percent retention rate (22 students), since then, class sizes have essentially returned to their pre-change numbers. The class of 2018 is currently at 40 students, with the class of 2019 at 39. However, McGohan also noted that this number is likely to decrease after the conclusion of the semester.

Elise Heiser (‘17) also entered Luther under this new curriculum and found that it posed some challenges for students.

“Sophomore year was extremely difficult, especially that first semester,” Heiser said. “I mean, it’s partly because of the curriculum change, part because it’s such a new thing in general.”

Heiser said that the nursing department faculty were receptive to criticism from students regarding the new curriculum. Heiser said they gathered feedback from students throughout their two years in the program — as their senior year is underway — and adjusted accordingly.

“Based on the feedback that we’ve given our professors, they tweak the program based on that,” Heiser said. “We’re the guinea pig year, basically.”

Buchholz echoed Heiser’s sentiments, adding that she feels the program has constantly been improving since the initial changes in 2013.

“They’ve done such a good job of changing it,” Buchholz said. “After my sophomore year they kind of just sat us all down and said ‘what worked well?’ [and] ‘what didn’t work well?’ They used a lot of our feedback and I think that’s really helped because they had a better idea of what’s been effective for students and what hasn’t.”

Buchholz said she was happy about the changes to the program. Relative to the classes prior, Buchholz’s class was allowed more experience earlier on.

“Since we’re the first class to have [the curriculum changes] implemented, now we’ve had it for [three] years and so we’re starting to see the changes,” Buchholz said. “I think they’ve been really positive just because we’ve had so much more hands on experience. So we were able to actually do patient care our sophomore year, and be in nursing homes and the hospital and all these places in Decorah before we went to Mayo.”

Heiser said she thinks that further changes may be implemented regarding a reduction in clinical hours in the junior year. During the final two weeks of the spring semester students spend in Rochester, there is traditionally 80 clinical hours completed. However, that might not be a possibility anymore, according to McGohan.

“There are no specific changes that have been determined for the future,” McGohan said. “As a department, we frequently look at trends in nursing practice and healthcare, in addition to benchmarking with other schools, to discuss if adjustments should be considered.”

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