Hands-On Healthcare Education
Students learning how to be nurses, respiratory or speech therapists, paramedics, radiology technicians, and other healthcare professionals can only learn so much in the classroom. There comes a time when they need to begin working with real patients in real situations. And that’s where Boone Health comes in.
Boone Health works with roughly 50 schools to provide clinical education opportunities to about 700 students every year. Boone Health works with programs at Stephens College, University of Missouri, Columbia College, Moberly Area Community College, Central Methodist University, and more, including online education programs that offer clinical opportunities for students close to where they live.
Deanna Powers, Supervisor of Clinical Education Training and Development, is the link between the schools, instructors, students, and staff at Boone Health.
“When you’re in nursing school, you get the book information. You get scenarios. You get simulations with a mannequin or a mock patient,” Deanna says. “But nothing ever takes the place of a real patient. Nothing can simulate that relationship with a patient.”
Because students aren’t licensed, they work with preceptors – Boone Health licensed professionals who show students how to do their future jobs. This is extra work for nurses, technicians, therapists, and others on top of their inherently busy jobs, but at Boone Health, these preceptors want to teach students what they know. They understand they may be teaching their future coworkers and that has never been more important than now.
“COVID changed the world and healthcare in particular,” Deanna says. “For a while, we didn’t have students. As we started hiring students who had finished nursing school during COVID but didn’t have the in-person clinical experience, we had to precept them differently.”
An analysis done by the journal Health Affairs shows that the number of registered nurses declined in excess of 100,000 in 2021. Nurses have been in short supply for years before the pandemic, but stress caused many to leave the profession, which leaves institutions like Boone Health hungry for new talent.
“Part of my job is recruiting students who want to get their clinical education at Boone,” Deanna says. “I need to help make their experience fascinating and exciting and let them see what happens here at Boone, so they want to come and work here.”
Nursing is a profession that requires knowledge of human nature and skills to communicate with patients in a very intimate way. Trust developed between a nurse and a patient makes patients more willing to stick to a treatment plan which leads to better patient outcomes. Deanna says teaching nursing students how to be comfortable with that type of interaction is critical and not something learned from a book. It’s no small challenge. Younger generations are more digital and often less social on a personal level.
“The digital world has made us change the way we do patient education,” Deanna says. “A fairly high percentage of our patients are over 65, and we still need to have conversations with them about their care because they aren’t comfortable with digital delivery of that information. Our nurses need to know how to do that.”
Clinical education at Boone isn’t just about the students and preceptors. The patient remains front and center in everything Boone delivers.
“Patients always have a choice. You can refuse to have a student present, and that’s perfectly fine. We will find another patient who is okay with that,” Deanna says. “There are no consequences. That’s your right as a patient here.”
Students work under the supervision of licensed professionals. The quality of patient care and protection of their rights to privacy are non-negotiable.
If patients receive the highest quality of care and students receive hands-on education from some of the best healthcare professionals anywhere, what does Boone Health get?
“Recruitment,” Deanna says. “If students come here and have a great experience, they may want to work here. And we know they’ve had great training. It’s a win for everyone.”
The nursing shortage has also led to nurses becoming preceptors and charge nurses much earlier in their careers. That’s why Boone Health continues to educate and support nursing staff as they make the transition from student to professional.
Boone’s Nursing Residency Program builds clinical skills by providing ongoing classroom and hands-on education during a nurse’s first years. They are prepared for patient care as well as for teaching tomorrow professionals when they graduate.
But nurses have always needed to be prepared for anything, including teaching students not long after being students themselves. Deanna says new nurses make great preceptors because they haven’t forgotten their own experience.
By Michelle Terhune