Less than five minutes into my first conversation with Bobby Scanlon, it was clear to me that she is in the right profession.
A nursing educator at Dove Healthcare, a long-term care facility in western Wisconsin, Scanlon has spent over two decades teaching geriatrics and elder care to CNA and nursing students. A lot has changed since she first began teaching, from teaching tools and methods to students’ expectations, but Scanlon’s dedication has only grown – and as a result, she is helping to make a big impact on healthcare education.
Comprised of six skilled nursing facilities, four assisted living facilities and one rehabilitation company, Dove Healthcare serves almost 500 residents and patients every day. As a nursing educator, Scanlon’s job is to teach her CNA, CBRF and CPR students the skills they need to provide quality care. However, Scanlon takes it one step further. Case in point: The reason for my visit with Scanlon that day was to learn more about the unique ways she was using Realityworks’ RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator to help her students develop empathy and geriatric sensitivity, key soft skills for anyone working with elderly patients.
The Geriatric Simulator is a wearable sensitivity suit that enables users to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges, like stiff joints, decreased mobility, visual impairment and loss of sensation. The interactive nature of this learning aid stands in stark contrast against the lecture and textbook teaching methods Scanlon’s own nursing instructors used when she was a student. As Scanlon described her excitement over using the simulator for the first time, and how much she was enjoying finding new ways to incorporate this unique tool into her program, I found myself impressed by Scanlon’s willingness to present her students with a variety of learning opportunities.
Years of teaching have taught Scanlon that to be an effective 21st Century educator, adaptation is key. Embracing new technology and teaching styles can be daunting, but Scanlon has seen the benefits firsthand. Her classes feature a combination of teaching techniques, from traditional lectures and PowerPoint presentations to small group networking opportunities, one-on-one skills practice sessions and of course, interactive learning aids like the Geriatric Simulator.
Scanlon has always sought to teach her students empathy and compassion toward the elderly, sharing with me that she regularly emphasizes the interactions her students have with residents during clinicals. Of course, there’s nothing like experiencing a lesson for yourself, and that’s what Scanlon does with the Geriatric Simulator. Her students are challenged to complete basic daily tasks like turning the pages of a book, buttoning a shirt, sitting and standing while wearing the full suit, which includes a walker and visual impairment glasses. The experiences make an impact; I was able to observe a CNA class as they tried the suit, and statements of “Oh my gosh,” “Oh wow” and “I didn’t know this is what they felt like!” came from every student, along with many statements of understanding.
Those statements of understanding – those “aha” moments – are why Scanlon exposes her students to these types of learning experiences. Throughout our conversations, she repeatedly stated that her goal by the end of each class is to “pass on my passion for working with the elderly to my students.” Her dedication and passion for elder care will drive her continued success, and as she’s already observed, empower her students to positively impact the lives of the elderly as well.
What are you doing to create “aha” moments in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments, then watch how Dove Healthcare students reacted to our Geriatric Simulator by watching this video.