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iLead program recognized for innovative use of iPads by BSN students

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston School of Nursing (UTMB SON) has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for 2021-2024. The nursing school's program called iLead (Innovative Learning Environment Accelerating Discovery) was recognized for innovation in learning, teaching, and leading with technology in the classroom.

Apple Distinguished Schools qualify as centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence. These schools use Apple technology to connect students to the world, fuel creativity, deepen collaboration, and make learning personal.

Recognition of UTMB School of Nursing as an Apple Distinguished School highlights our success in creating an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic achievement, said Dean Deborah J. Jones, PhD, MSN, RN. Delivering high-quality education is essential to our success, and iPad technology keeps everyone connected.

At orientation, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students are issued an iPad and Apple Pencil. Faculty members – most of whom are Apple Certified Teachers – employ Apple technology to engage the students in project collaborations, presentations, course assignments, simulation labs, and research activities in the BSN Traditional curriculum. Additionally the Apple technology is used to facilitate simulated clinical practice settings.

Our experience demonstrates that one-to-one iPad implementation facilitates students' active learning and empowers innovative pedagogy for educating future nurses, said Chair for Undergraduate Studies Patricia Richard, PhD, RN.

The power and immediacy of the iPad technology enhances students' engagement and encourages critical thinking in a manner equally accessible to all students.

More than 1,100 iPads have been distributed since iLead began in summer 2019, and students have reported that the iPad has been a positive addition to their learning experience. Having access to the iPad helped me better organize my notes and textbooks onto one device, saved me money by purchasing e-versions of the textbooks instead of paper copies, and really transformed how I utilize technology for learning, said Daniel Frost, 2021 BSN graduate. Before coming to school here, I had never used an iPad or tablet. I appreciate the efforts that everyone at UTMB has put into implementing this technology initiative.

UTMB School of Nursing has a tradition of embracing new educational technology, Dean Jones said. In fact, the graduate program began using iPads to facilitate clinical site visits. Sheba Luke, DNP, MSN, RN, assistant professor in our Department of Graduate Studies, confirms that the use of FaceTime to evaluate the progress of our nurse practitioner students in their clinical sites is an innovative method utilizing this technology.

Faculty observe the students via FaceTime on their iPads as the student performs a history and physical on a patient in their clinical setting along with their preceptor. This method proved to be an effective and efficient way to evaluate student clinical progress virtually versus in-person, said Luke.

The use of a videoconferencing platform for virtual clinical site visits provides the student an introduction to the concepts of telehealth as technology and information literacy is one of the nurse practitioner core competencies. The ability to be innovate and proficient with the use of technology is a necessary skill to develop for future health care providers.

We look forward to expanding iLead throughout the curriculum and further implementing innovative ideas for teaching and learning, said Dean Jones. The Apple Distinguished Schools program is by invitation only for accredited public and private schools that meet the program qualifications and eligibility requirements. Recognition is for three years, with an opportunity to be invited to continue in the program.

Read more about UTMB SON's iLead program HERE.

In Population Health Nursing, a third-semester course in the UTMB School of Nursing BSN curriculum, the students are afforded real-world experiences that also benefit the communities we serve.

Each semester, Population Health faculty members team up with community partners to assess the needs of whole populations and allow students to gain meaningful nursing experiences in a diverse range of settings.

Dr. Annalyn DeMello, assistant professor in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, worked in community health for years, prior to becoming a nurse. While hospital and clinic nursing addresses treatment of a disease or injury, community health and population health aims to prevent disease and injury from occurring or becoming worse, she says.

Furthermore, to improve health and to prevent disease and injury, we need to engage whole communities. A person's health is affected and can be modified by their behaviors, people around them, communities, and overarching systems. To treat a person and those in their 'population,' we need to understand the communities they live in. This includes understanding their barriers, facilitators, attitudes, and preferences for change, DeMello said.

This summer, DeMello coordinated initiatives with YMCA Camp Cullen and Galveston Central Church for her Population Health students.

At Camp Cullen – a summer camp at Lake Livingston where youth enjoy sports, water activities, arts and crafts, and education – nursing students performed critical functions to support a safe camp environment.

We spent the week performing our nursing skills in assessment and treatment of camp injuries, such as stings, sprains, splinters, stomachaches, and administering medications. Other objectives included helping kids through homesickness and camp counselors through compassion fatigue, commonly known as burnout, DeMello said.

Joy Gooden, one of the students who participated at Camp Cullen, appreciated the opportunity to apply not only the technical nursing skills she has learned, but also her communication skills in a therapeutic way.

I was able to build positive and effective relationships with the staff, counselors, and campers. They felt comfortable confiding in me, and I was able to provide purposeful solutions to help the day flow more efficiently, Gooden said.

At Galveston Central Church, which provides significant support to Galveston’s homeless population, DeMello’s students engaged in an eight-week interprofessional initiative to provide health services to community members, including assessments, foot care, lab draws, dentistry, social work, and physician consultations.

As a supplement to the Central Church initiative, nursing students took part in a week-long competition with other UTMB students to generate donations for community members in need. Thanks to the support of the UTMB Alumni Association, the School of Medicine’s Vesalius Osler Society, students, faculty, and staff, Galveston community members were given a total of 15 new pairs of shoes, 13 backpacks, 11 pants, 29 reusable water bottles, and 12 boxes of toiletries.

Christen Sadler, assistant professor in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, has also organized opportunities for Population Health students to give back, including a donation drive that yielded more than 4,500 diapers and training pants for the Galveston Diaper Bank. Her students also volunteered for Project CURE, an organization that helps distribute donated medical supplies.

For students like Gooden, these experiences represent more than the fulfillment of a requirement in a class. They present a different, valuable view of how nurses can be effective team members in a multitude of settings and situations.

I have enjoyed Population Health because it has given me the opportunity to reinforce my nursing skills and knowledge outside of the hospital setting, she said. It has opened my eyes to a different sector of nursing that is equally as important as traditional clinical care.

DeMello emphasizes the importance of students in the course learning how to address the health needs of whole groups of people, not just single individuals.

They learn how to do a needs assessment and develop sustainable interventions with the input of key informants from the targeted population. Really, what we target are social determinants of health, which cuts to the heart of many of today's health problems, DeMello said. Addressing people in their communities, in their homes, and through the larger systems that affect them is how we improve a population's health.

Our 127 summer population health students contributed approximately 1200 hours towards vaccinating the community against COVID-19, over 1524 hours working onsite with and on behalf of specific populations, and 4519 diapers to families in need. We feel proud of this group and excited to launch our fall initiatives next month.

Ashley Salazar
Ashley Salazar

UTMB School of Nursing is known for its many distinctions as "first" – and now, doctoral student Ashley Salazar continues the legacy with a first of her own. She is the first student not only from the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, but from the SON as a whole, selected to participate in UTMB's Institute for Translational Sciences (ITS) TL1 Training Program.

The ITS is UTMB's CTSA hub, which brings multidisciplinary teams together to advance translational research through team-based science.

The TL1 program engages trainees and scholars in a curriculum specifically designed to develop key interprofessional, multidisciplinary team-based translational science competencies. Only three postdoctoral and three predoctoral students are selected annually to participate in the one-year program, funded by the Clinical Translational Science Award (CTSA).

When I decided to go back to obtain my DNP, I saw such an opportunity to bridge clinical practice and research, and gain more research knowledge, Salazar said. I learned there is not a model in place for DNP and PhD nurses to collaborate and work together, although it is a big goal. I wanted to figure out how I can bridge this gap.

As an employee in UTMB's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Salazar has worked in many different roles – as a nurse coordinator, a nurse practitioner providing patient care, and doing investigator work with mentors like Dr. George Saade, Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine, in the Division of Perinatal Research. She has seen effective collaboration between clinicians and researchers in medicine, and her experience sparked an interest in exploring this dynamic in nursing.

Supported by DNP Program Director Dr. Linda Rounds, Salazar met with others at UTMB, including Chief Research Officer and ITS Director Dr. Randy Urban, to learn about opportunities to connect clinical practice and research in nursing.

Although nursing is not currently well represented in the ITS, Dr. Urban expressed that expanding interprofessional participation would be beneficial. Identifying the TL1 Training Program as a potential entry point to explore this work, Salazar met with TL1 Program Director Dr. Mark Hellmich to discuss the opportunity.

Selected for the one-year program, Salazar will begin her work in January. Her plan is to work on models for DNP and PhD collaboration using some of the existing paradigms the CTSA has already begun to develop for interprofessional collaboration.

The whole idea behind the CTSA is that the work is done through multidisciplinary teams to produce and translate ideas faster, Salazar said. From the clinician side, it's an opportunity to learn more about working with a team for the purpose of bridging nursing science, establishing and utilizing some of the models the CTSA is already working with.

Please join us in congratulating Ashley Salazar on this tremendous opportunity! We are proud of her commitment to advancing nursing science and excited for what she will accomplish as a TL1 trainee.

With a wide variety of disciplines represented on campus, opportunities for interprofessional education (IPE) at UTMB are endless. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way group activities can be held, educators have gone the extra mile to keep interprofessional training from falling by the wayside.

Dr. Chris Edwards, Dr. Roy Trahan, and Mrs. Morgan Cangelosi, faculty at the School of Nursing (SON), recently led an IPE activity for BSN students in their Adult III class, in collaboration with the School of Health Professions' Department of Respiratory Care. The goal was to familiarize BSN students with aspects of respiratory care encountered in critical care areas, such as non-invasive and invasive ventilation, airways, and oxygen delivery.

In the fall, we started working with Respiratory Therapy to create an IPE activity between the two schools, Edwards said. It gives the RT students, with a faculty member present, the opportunity to practice teaching about ventilators, and it allows our students to see the various ventilators before going into the clinical setting. It also reinforces material from lectures.

Ms. Melissa Yanes, Director of Clinical Education in the Department of Respiratory Care, was the department's lead on the activity. This activity helps our students build on their communication skills and allows them to share their knowledge and experience with nursing students, she said.

Under normal circumstances, the Respiratory Care students would rotate through senior nursing class simulation activities. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, however, group size and time constraints forced the faculty members to think creatively in order to preserve this learning opportunity. They came up with a plan that allowed just as many students to participate, while prioritizing social distancing and safety.

Twelve students of the 119 enrolled in the final senior nursing semester visited campus to participate in person, while the remainder did so remotely. Meanwhile, 21 senior-level Respiratory Care students served as facilitators, demonstrating the use of respiratory care equipment with simulated patients. Using their iPads, the nursing students walked through the stations and broadcast the activities to their classmates, who were connected via Zoom in breakout rooms.

Students could still interact with RT students, RT faculty, and SON faculty to get clarification on concepts or to even ask for a different view. We also had an MSN nurse education student and a BSN-PhD education student there helping us, so they could get their teaching time for the various Education Tracks, Edwards said.

Amy Hughes Childs, who will graduate with her master's degree with specialization in the nurse educator role in December, appreciated the hybrid online/in-person format and the opportunities it presented to her as a future educator. She also felt encouraged by the students' level of engagement.

As a nurse educator, activities like this are extremely beneficial to future endeavors. With the current pandemic situation and the actual unknown, being able to think out of the box and deliver quality education is exceptional, she said. The steps are being made to keep everyone connected to ensure delivery of high-quality education and advanced training.

Ms. Yanes and Dr. Jose Rojas, department chair, said that the Respiratory Care participants also benefited from being challenged to teach both in-person and remote learners effectively. Rojas likened the experience to what patients must navigate as telemedicine encounters become more prevalent.

Many of our educational meetings are now being held virtually, and the nursing and respiratory care collaborative provided an opportunity to experiment with various technologies available. (It gave us) a good practical experience in advantages and limitations of the technologies, Rojas said.

Teaching in the age of COVID-19 has created a need for educators to innovate like never before. Fortunately, UTMB School of Nursing (SON) faculty members are discovering that critical skills can be taught just as effectively online, when both faculty and students are engaged with the experience.

Online Simulation Lab
Online Simulation Lab

Members of SON's OB nursing faculty — Dr. Jacquelyn Svoboda, Dr. Laura King, Dr. Dora Martin and Ms. Cheryl Day — recently conducted a simulation lab for third-semester BSN students, converting what is traditionally a face-to-face experience into an unfolding high-risk delivery case simulation on Zoom.

Groups of five students per simulation navigated the virtual experience with a faculty moderator and visual prompts. Student participants served as virtual nurses, family members and observers, just as they would in the in-person lab experience.

It was encouraging and enlightening to see that in the virtual environment, students were able to critically apply their knowledge and prioritize nursing assessment and interventions with confidence, despite the lack of face-to-face contact, according to Dr. Svoboda, the course director.

The students were actively engaged in learning and successfully demonstrated development of their critical thinking skills through application of the concepts they have learned in the OB course, Dr. King added.

Dr. Svoboda felt the change to virtual experiences has been just as educational for her as for her students, as she has honed in on qualities that help make her a better educator — such as being well-organized, accessible and a clear, concise communicator.

Most importantly, Dr. Svoboda has witnessed that education does not have to be compromised just because it is delivered in a virtual format — even with a larger cohort of around 120 students.

This virtual simulation format can be extremely engaging and has the potential to apply as much, or even more, critical thinking and prioritization skills than brick and mortar experiences, Dr. Svoboda said.

SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills

SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills.

With the recent need to transition mostly online this semester, many elements of our nursing education experience have looked a little different for our BSN students. While the high-quality education and faculty commitment to student success are constant, learning tools like videos, online simulation modules and other remote education platforms have taken on a greater role than before.

When it comes to some skills, however, there is no substitute for in-person learning. That's why SON faculty and staff carefully coordinated an on-campus skills lab experience that would allow first-semester BSN students to practice, demonstrate, and master their medication administration skills on campus this summer with safety as a number one priority.

Nursing is a hands-on profession. It is an expectation that nurses are competent in their skills along with having a strong knowledge base to care for patients, says Assistant Professor Carol Glaze, who teaches Adult Health I (NURS 3631). Hands-on lab practice builds knowledge and confidence in nursing students. It promotes an environment of safe practice where learning is optimized.

SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills
SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills

SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills.

Prior to the pandemic, these skills activities were incorporated into a three-hour weekly scheduled lab experience for the course. Students would practice over several weeks in small groups in the lab, while faculty circulated to assist and offer corrections. Many skills validations would take place over two consecutive weeks.

Closely following UTMB's COVID-19 guidelines, this summer's activities were planned within a two-to-three-day window for students to be on campus. Modifications helped ensure the lab was conducted as safely as possible. For example, only 10 individuals could be placed in the large skills labs, versus the typical 25 to 35. Support staff also were on hand to help to screen students, making sure that no one entering the lab reported symptoms or exposure.

For the students, all the additional planning and measures taken were worthwhile. Videos demonstrating virtual skills and online simulation activities have helped them stay motivated to practice their skills at home and become more confident, but students said they benefited greatly from visiting campus, working alongside their peers and teachers, and getting to practice in UTMB's state-of-the-art facilities.

We were able to practice in front of our professors, who gave us valuable feedback in order to continue to improve, student McKenna Namken said. We were also evaluated in a way that simulated a real-life scenario with our professors asking us questions like actual patients would.

It was also the students' first chance to meet many of their classmates and faculty in person — something that made the experience even more valuable.

SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills.
SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills.

SON faculty member teaches first semester BSN students medication administration skills.

It felt amazing to come to campus for the first time and finally meet the people I'd been learning with and learning from! The SON has done an amazing job with the virtual learning, but nothing beats seeing people face-to-face, student Angela Madoux said.

Glaze said it was also an important learning experience for her as an educator, as she is seeing the benefit of delivering information to students in a variety of formats.

The hybrid format has allowed the NURS 3631 team an opportunity to consider many new learning activities that previously had not been considered or implemented. It will affect how we plan for future course activities, she said.

The students who participated say they are looking forward to the continuation of their education. Before starting school, Namken says she spoke to many UTMB SON grads who loved their time at UTMB and felt the school truly prepared them for their careers. She is excited for the opportunity to develop her skills further and hopes for more in-person experiences like this going forward.

Madoux also entered UTMB SON with high expectations for her education, and feels reassured by the investment the school has shown in her success.

We aren't just a number or a face in the crowd, she said. The SON, my professors, my advisor - they really care, and it shows in their accessibility and the ways they teach and reinforce concepts of nursing.