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MCCC Nursing and Physical Therapist Assistant Students Team Up for Interdisciplinary Lesson

3/8/18


Step One: Nursing Professor Lisa Dunn prepares the patient scenario as Nursing students look on.

Step Two: Nursing students explain the patient's condition to PTA students (in lab coats.)

Step Three: The patient is up!

Step 4: The patient is mobile!

Step 5: Mission accomplished. Students and faculty are pictured, from left: Crystal Dixon, PTA Professor Holly Kaiser, Ashely Sterling, Shannon McLaughlin, Nursing Professor Lisa Dunn, Heidy Grullon, and Abbey Miller.

West Windsor, N.J. – A patient has just had a right hip replacement. How complicated is it to get him or her out of bed for the first time?

Nursing and Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) students at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) had a chance to find out as an interdisciplinary team of two PTA students and three Nursing students recently participated in a simulation lesson at the college.

Nursing Professor Lisa Dunn notes that if you are a nurse, you have concerns about patient falls and setbacks in the surgical healing process. If you are a PTA, says faculty member Holly Kaiser, you are keenly aware of the importance of getting the patient up and moving as soon as possible.

Two student nurses, Crystal and Heidi, observed the action, while a third student nurse, Abby, volunteered to be the patient in bed in the college’s hospital-like simulation classroom. Abby did an admirable job portraying a compliant, but slightly confused, post-op patient in need of lots of guidance.

Asking the Nursing students occasional questions as they focused on their task, PTA students Ashley and Shannon quickly turned their attention to their patient to establish trust and clear communication. First came introductions: names, purpose of the visit, questions about the patient’s pain level, current medications, and doctors’ orders.

Then came the mechanics of easing the post-op patient into mobility, as the PTA students reviewed patient do’s and don’t’s with Abby: Don’t bend forward; don’t roll your leg inward; do move slowly and with purpose.

“Consider an imaginary line with the middle of your body as the center.  And, don’t cross it with your leg or foot,” Ashley instructed.

Moving very slowly and with continual guidance and support, Abby allowed herself to be guided into a sitting and then standing position, using a walker. The PTA students were then able to walk her the length of the room, turn her around, return her to her bedside, and get her comfortably repositioned in bed. In all, the activity took about 20 minutes.

At the conclusion of the lesson, the five students and their professors critiqued the “best of” and “less best” moments. Said Professor Dunn, “Sometimes we want to give the answers, but students learn by making mistakes.”

The professors noted the value of the lesson for both groups. Professor Kaiser said that by pairing the curricula, PTA students have an opportunity to react to scenarios in a clinically appropriate manner. “They are using the skills they have learned in the classroom and interacting with other members of the healthcare team,” she said. Similarly, the Nursing students benefit from collaborating with related health disciplines, which they will do every day in the hospital setting.

The paired lesson was piloted this fall and deemed so successful that it will become a permanent part of the curriculum for both programs. Other interdisciplinary lessons are being considered for the future.

Nursing Program at Mercer

Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Mercer

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