Hands-On Learning and Community-Building at Harris Casel | Harris Casel Institute Melbourne FL
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Hands-On Learning and Community-Building at Harris Casel

Practical nursing students show their commitment to their studies and fellow students

Harris Casel Practical Nursing students learn proper hand washing procedure, then check to see how well they’ve done using black light technology.
Practical Nursing students in the Health Core class are practicing proper hand washing procedure, then (right) they check to see how well they’ve done using black light technology – which allows them to see areas they’ve missed. What an eye opener!

We recently caught up with Esther Martin, who is an instructor in the Practical Nursing (PN) program at Harris Casel Institute. She shared some ways that her students are gaining hands-on experience in their training, as well as how they are reaching out to support one another. Whether they are using a black light to examine their handwashing technique, or putting together gift bags to welcome new arrivals, the students are actively engaged in their professional training program.

Seeing the benefits of “hands-on” training 

As part of the Health Core class, Ms. Martin routinely instructs students on proper handwashing technique—but her students get to use technology to see just how good a job they are doing. “First, we teach them a standardized practice used in the medical field,” she says. This involves teaching students to wash thoroughly with hot water and soap, creating a good lather by running hands together, and reaching all the places on the front and back of hands. They learn to spend enough time at the sink scrubbing that they can get through two verses of the song “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat,” about 15–20 seconds. Martin is careful to advise students to wash thoroughly in between each of the fingers, as well as under the fingernails.

Once they’ve received instructions on this procedure, students get a visual demonstration of just how well they’ve washed their hands. They apply a special liquid to their hands that contains a plastic material that simulates the appearance of germs when viewed under ultraviolet (UV) light. Then they wash their hands, as extensively as they think would be appropriate to protect their potential patients from infection. When they examine their hands under a black light, which casts UV rays, any areas on their hands where they did not wash effectively show up dramatically. “This serves as a kind of a wake up call about just how thorough they need to be,” she says.

Martin also emphasizes to her students that, especially if they have a cut on their skin, dangerous germs can get trapped in that area. “This helps them to focus on what can remain on their hands if they aren’t careful,” she says. She also teaches students about how often they should be washing their hands on the job. “They learn that, when they greet a patient, they should introduce themselves and let the patient know they’re going to wash their hands right there, in front of them,” she says. “That way the patient feels secure that they’re taking precautions before there is any physical contact.”

This is just one of many procedures Ms. Martin demonstrates and then practices with students in her classes. Other hands-on practical nurse skills she teaches include the logistics of how to transfer a patient, such as from a bed to a chair; how to turn a patient; and how to make a bed with a patient in it. The broader focus of this and other courses, Martin says, is on foundations of assessment and the collection of data. “These are all part of the nursing process,” she says “and these skills help them learn how to solve problems.”

Martin teaches students to follow the acronym ADPIE, which stands for Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. “Each of these steps is important,” she says, “as the students learn to use critical thinking to handle situations they will encounter with patients.” It’s important that they follow the five steps in that particular order.

The PN students also learn the medical terminology they need to develop and execute healthcare plans for a patient, which includes documenting and reporting. “The combination of these analytical skills and the hands-on training the students do prepares them well for their careers as practical nurses,” Martin says.

Helping new students feel at home

New Practical Nursing students at Harris Casel receive gift bags filled with “Nurse Goodies” from graduate PNs.
On January 17 graduates of the Practical Nursing program shared advice, knowledge, study tips, and presented gift baskets filled with “Nurse Goodies” to the new PN students at a togetherness event, part of the mentoring initiative at the school.

Martin is pleased to see the students take initiative with respect to a social and interpersonal aspect of their time at Harris Casel. There is now a mentoring process in place, whereby the more experienced students (or “seniors”), take it upon themselves to reach out to the new students, make a connection, and offer assistance.

“Those students who are halfway through their training, or more, know what to expect and want to share that insight with the newer students,” Martin says. “They remember what it’s like to come into the program and be a bit unsure, and how a connection with someone on campus can be meaningful.”

Recently, Martin saw just how the experienced students took the time to organize their outreach. They obtained a list of the newer students, and each one chose a newer student to mentor. “They thought of some items that would be useful to the newer students—such as a USB Flash drive, a calculator, note paper, and a pen,” she says. Then they set aside the time to put together gift bags, and put their name on the bag, so their mentee would know who they were.

The group of seniors also organized a talk to the newer students, to inspire confidence and offer some advice. “They encouraged the new group, acknowledging that the course was difficult but telling them they could make it through,” Martin says. Some students talked about sacrifices they had made to handle the program. “They also talked about study skills that they had found useful,” she adds, “and even offered themselves as ‘study buddies,’ should the mentees find they needed help.”

Martin says this tradition began several years ago, when the instructors would suggest it, and she has been pleased to see the seniors now lead the mentoring process on their own. “We talk about it with them at the beginning of the term,” she says, “but now they remember how much it meant to them that other students did it when they first arrived, so it has really caught on and become a nice tradition.” Martin has seen the benefits that emerge for all the students that participate. “They form a connection,” she says, “and many times the students end up being friends.”

Martin is proud of the work her students do, and happy to see them growing and learning over the course of the training program, as individuals as well as professionals. Stay tuned to the Harris Casel blog for more articles in the coming months about other campus activities and life on campus!

If you are interested in nursing schools in Florida or training for other allied health professions, we invite you to learn more about our career training programs at our campus in Melbourne, Florida. Contact us online for more info, or call 321-676-4066 to speak with a representative of our Admissions Department, who can answer any questions you might have. We hope to hear from you!