- Cherry Creek School District No. 5
Preparing the next generation of nurses
As the United States deals with a nursing shortage that is only expected to continue, the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus (CCIC) is looking to help fill that talent pipeline.
In its second year, the Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA) class at the school serves students from all over the district who want to learn about nursing and the healthcare industry while getting hands-on experience. The students learn about the history of nursing as well as the related ethics and laws. As a work-based learning model, students not only learn essential nurse assistant skills but also practice the art and science of critical thinking with reasoning, a required skill in the healthcare industry.
The class is taught by Elerie Archer, MBA, BSN, R.N., who has been a nurse for over a quarter of a century. She has worked in a variety of healthcare settings in various nursing roles, from correctional care to burn units and as a manager for developing specialty training programs. Though she had some experience as a facilitator in her roles as a clinical nurse, this is her first role as a full-time instructor.
“I didn’t realize how similar teaching would be to nursing,” Archer said. “Whether it is a patient or a student, you’re working with that person to reach their goals for health or educational purposes. You’re a cheerleader for them, you're the number-one fan who has their back. You’re working with ten or twenty people that you’re helping all at the same time and you have to be aware of what they individually need, too.”
Archer shared that her biggest lesson as a new instructor was to give her students the freedom to grow as well as make mistakes. She soon learned that students were more successful when given the chance to complete tasks and then reflect on what they needed to do differently. Learning by experience through practical application is a key part of the CNA class as students practice on mannequins, their classmates and eventually complete their clinical learning experience at a local long-term care facility or an assisted living home.
“This year especially, we are very mindful of how to balance giving students hands-on experience while keeping them safe,” Archer said. She explained that parents had to sign permission slips for the students and that students are required to wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when practicing on each other.
Nursing is serious and comes with challenges, Archer emphasizes to her students. She wants them to know that they need the ‘aptitude and attitude.’ Knowing that you have someone’s life at your fingertips is powerful. At the same time, Archer encourages her students to laugh and uses humor in class to engage the students and give them tools to connect more effectively with their patients.
“One day, you’re going to run into a patient you had,” Archer said. “You want them to remember you for the care you gave them. Not for taking their blood pressure, but for putting them at ease and creating the best experience as well as for comforting them during a hard time in their life. You want to make your patients feel like they are your only patient.”
Archer is excited for her second year of teaching and is grateful for her CCIC colleagues and principal Mark Morgan for creating a positive learning environment, especially now.
“I’m helping train future nurses in the middle of a pandemic,” Archer said. “We have people ready to hire our students when they finish the course because the occupation is in such a high demand and it’s incredibly gratifying to be a part of CCIC and training the next generation of healthcare workers.”
Posted 10/8/20 at 4:30 pm.