Cindy Westbrook (white jacket) assesses the health of "patient" Rebecca Nelson during the first day of GCU's residency for students in its onlin nurse practitioner program. The nurses developed a friendship even before meeting this week.

First residency for nurse practitioner students

April 16, 2014 / by / 1 Comment
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By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau

Cindy Westbrook (white jacket) assesses the health of "patient" Rebecca Nelson during the first day of GCU's residency for students in its onlin nurse practitioner program. The nurses developed a friendship even before meeting this week.

Cindy Westbrook (white lab coat) assesses the health of “patient” Rebecca Nelson on Tuesday, the first day of residency for students in GCU’s online nurse practitioner program. The nurses had developed a friendship even before meeting this week.

There’s no substitute for doing, especially where thoracic expansions, diaphragmatic excursions and jugular venous pressure are concerned, as 14 nurses from Arizona, Nevada and Florida are finding out this week at Grand Canyon University.

The students are attending GCU’s first residency in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions’ online Adult-Geriatric-Acute Nurse Practitioner program. The residency, which began Tuesday morning and ends Thursday evening, functions as a final project in the learners’ Advanced Health Assessment course.

They will be tested on dozens of skills, from checking skin tone and ear health to percussing the liver and measuring reflexes in the feet. Only after demonstrating their competencies in person and with pencils on the final exam Thursday will the students be passed to the next course in the curriculum and approved for clinical rotations in the field.

The group was welcomed on Tuesday by Dr. Anne McNamara, dean of CONHCP, and other faculty. Then it spent the morning watching a head-to-toe physical examination by faculty member Dr. Sabine Garrett of Sim Man, a human patient simulator mannequin. The students followed up by gently prodding, listening to breath and other body sounds and assessing the overall health of each other. Those skills are being repeated today on GCU employee and student volunteers.

“Our health-care system is under a lot of stress, and a really good health assessment can help you hone in what you really need in the way of tests, to decide what’s important,” Garrett told the students. “You start with the minimum, instead of using a shotgun approach.”

Traveling the farthest (1,800 miles one way) was Cindy Westbook of Gainesville, Fla., who never had been to GCU, or to Phoenix, until arriving on Monday night. She was sold from the start on the residency, which also involved practicing suturing, lumbar puncture and endotracheal intubation on Sim Man.

“It allows us to connect one-on-one with the institution and fellow students, and validates what we have been learning on our own,” said Westbrook, a nurse in the open heart intensive care unit at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital.

Nelson (left), of Surprise, and Westbrook, of Gainesville, Fla., were among 14 nurses attending the residency, which tested their skills in head-to-toe physical exams.

Nelson (left), of Surprise, and Westbrook, of Gainesville, Fla., are among 14 nurses at the residency, which tested their skills in head-to-toe physical exams.

She was picked up at the airport by Rebecca Nelson, a nurse in the telemetry ward at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital — and fellow student in the nurse practitioner program. The women felt like old friends because of the online conversations about curriculum, careers and life they’ve had over the past two years of coursework.

Nelson, of Surprise, spent 16 years in corporate accounting before deciding to become a nurse.

“It’s so rewarding,” she said. “I love the patients, the interaction with them, and at the end of the day, if I’ve made a difference for one minute for one day for one person, that’s what makes it for me.”

Nelson, who graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University’s nursing school, decided to pursue the nurse practitioner degree because she wants to continue in patient care but also have the credentials to teach future nurses. She also wants to have greater decision-making authority with patients, rather than relying on physicians to write the orders for tests, treatment and discharge.

“I would like to be able to follow my patients even more closely, be more involved in their care and see the difference that I can make,” said Nelson, who plans to graduate in two years.

Before the residency, Westbrook, Nelson and the other students had studied and watched plenty of videos demonstrating health assessments and physical exams. But being hands-on – literally – made their learning more valuable, and the camaraderie that developed in the Sim Lab at the College of Arts and Sciences building was evident.

“I love seeing everyone in person, and having the on-campus experience,” Nelson said. “It feels like being a freshman just moving into the dorm.”

Contact Janie Magruder at 639.8018 or janie.magruder@gcu.edu.


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One Response
  1. Dr. Kay Turk

    Excellent article on GCU’s first residency for nurse practitioner students! I like the highlight on the students… This is so exciting for GCU. Special accolades to Dr. Sabine Garrett and Profesor Nicole Hairson who developed this!

    Apr.16.2014 at 8:51 pm
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