"Hands-On" Defines College of Nursing Experience

July 26, 2013

Erin Wiley, a senior in nursing at the University of Arizona, isn’t just studying nursing. She’s learning the field by experiencing it firsthand.

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“Nursing can be surprising,” she says, “in that you don’t realize how much of a person’s life – psychosocial, nutrition, everything – ties into their health status, and nursing is really about taking everything that is about that person’s life and putting it into care.”

Wiley says she chose the UA College of Nursing specifically because of its hands-on curriculum.

The College is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and ranks among the top 4 percent of graduate nursing programs in the United States.

Learning in the Skills Lab

Research has shown again and again that the most effective learning happens when people learn through first-hand experience. In the College of Nursing, tomorrow’s nurses train in a skills lab that simulates the real-life experience of working with patients.

In the lab, designed to look just like a hospital ward, curtained beds line the walls, and on each bed lies a patient – a computerized mannequin.

“We can set vital signs, heart sounds, lung sounds, bodily functions, and communication,” explains Clinical Associate Professor Melissa Goldsmith, Ph.D., D.F.S.L. “And it really provides a very real-life experience for the students as much as possible.”

Such simulations are an essential part of learning, she says. “In a simulation setting, when students encounter a situation that’s stressful and high pressure, occasionally people do freeze up. That’s alright. That’s part of the learning experience.”

Trusted by All

Within the nursing program, students have the opportunity to work in practically every area of care, from pediatrics to adults to neural patients to oncology patients.

According to clinical instructor Doug Cunningham, M.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N., the more chances students have to work with a wide variety of patients, the more well-rounded nurses they will be.

But there’s more to it than skills and knowledge.

“It’s becoming confident and proud of what you’re doing,” he says. “We’re entrusted by all, and students need to learn this, and I think they learn it through example.”

Denise Hay-Roe, a student in the University of Arizona Honors College, is deep into the program and working hard on her thesis.

“I’ve been able to go out and interact with nurses in the field,” she says. Her focus is on school nursing and teen pregnancy prevention. Her instructors have encouraged her and opened opportunities for her that she feels she would not have been able to access on her own.

“I’m going to present my research at the Western Institute of Nursing, which is incredible,” she says. “I feel confident that with the skills I have and the skills I’m going to get that I will be the best nurse I can be, and the (UA) College of Nursing has really prepared me for that.”

Learn more about hands-on compassionate care at the UA College of Nursing.
Check out opportunities for academic excellence at the UA Honors College.