In Year of the Nurse, La Salle’s nursing program focused on the future

La Salle’s dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences outlines the importance of thinking critically and serving the underserved.

The World Health Organization designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse, recognizing 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale—the founder of modern nursing. Years from now, historians might look back on 2020 as the year of the nurse for a different reason.

The critical role served by nurses and health care professionals is on display due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In treating patients, whether or not they are suffering from the novel coronavirus, nurses have placed their personal health at risk amid personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages and precipitous spikes in positive cases in the United States.

Kathy CzekanskiTo Kathleen Czekanski, Ph.D., RN, dean of La Salle University’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, 2020 underscored the importance of nursing and nursing education.

“Now more than ever, we know the importance and need for highly skilled and competent nurses in the workforce,” said Czekanski.

What is the future of nursing education? What is La Salle’s role in preparing the nurses of tomorrow to lead in their field? Czekanski pointed to the importance of thinking critically and serving the underserved.

Producing critical thinkers
Among the most important skills for a nurse is the ability to think critically, Czekanski said. In fact, its value is paramount in the La Salle nursing program’s curriculum. As proven by the uphill battle created by COVID-19, it is impossible for health professionals to know everything—particularly in the case of emerging diseases. But sound critical thinking gives nurses a better chance at helping a patient, Czekanski said.

Nursing’s evolution over the years has placed more importance than ever on a nurse’s instincts and ability to think critically, even when the information they have at hand produces an inconclusive picture.

“Nurses use strong assessment skills to pick up changes in their patients’ conditions; however, sometimes you know something is wrong, but you don’t know exactly what it is,” Czekanski said. “Maybe the changes in the vital signs aren’t showing yet. That’s why critical thinking, and communication with the patient and the family, is so important.”

Staying on the cutting edge
Clinical rotations are an essential component of nursing education to help produce professionals who can think and act on their feet while under pressure.

That’s why cutting-edge technology, like simulation, is vital in La Salle’s nursing program. Czekanski said the School of Nursing and Health Sciences has been incorporating more simulation recently to augment the clinical rotations, so all La Salle students can achieve a tangible, realistic learning experience.

“We recently received funds to purchase a new simulator called Noelle, who actually gives birth,” said Czekanski. “Maternity clinical placements are becoming harder to secure. Not every hospital has mother-baby units and. every nursing school in the city is competing for those placements. Having this simulator will make sure that our students will have that experience.”

Czekanski continued: “We can simulate scenarios we need our students to know. Can our students do immediate care for someone experiencing a myocardial infarction or heart attack? They may not get that in their clinical rotation, but we can make sure they get it in the lab. Our mannequins are high fidelity, meaning they breathe and produce heartbeats and pulses. And with the simulation, we can make it as real as possible.”

Addressing the needs of the underserved
In the years ahead, Czekanski predicts, it will be increasingly more important for nurses to understand community-based primary care to address and offer treatments for opioid use disorder, integrated behavioral health, chronic disease management, HIV, and maternal and child health in outpatient community settings.

“That’s where health care is going,” Czekanski said. “Acute care, which is short-term treatment of serious injuries, disease, illnesses, or medical conditions, is only a portion of patients who are being treated.”
—Patrick Berkery

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