By Rebecca Rakoczy
Stretch — now hold it!”
On the second floor of the DeKalb County Fire Headquarters, four students from Georgia State University School of Nursing Associate Degree Program, Perimeter College, are teaching yoga to a group of firefighters.
With their hectic and stressful schedules, firefighters often need reminders and tips to stay healthy, the students said.
“We are the future nurses of Georgia, and we want to teach you how to relax,” said Natasha Davis, one of the students teaching the firefighters.
This is the second year Georgia State’s associate degree nursing students have been teaching stress-reducing habits to firefighters, said Valencia Freeman, the Perimeter instructor who oversees clinical rotations. Perimeter College’s students need at least 180 hours of hands-on clinical service as part of their registered nurse training, and the fire station visits help fulfill some of those hours, she said.
Creating new opportunities for students to get experience beyond the bedside has become the norm for nursing and other professional healthcare programs, said Lynda Goodfellow, professor and associate academic dean for academic affairs at Georgia State’s Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions, which houses the School of Nursing.
Nursing programs have been expanding to meet the workforce demand — but the number of available clinical sites and preceptors to provide needed teaching experiences in the hospital setting has not increased, she said.
A preceptor is a skilled nursing professional in a clinical setting who is responsible for working with several students at a time, supervising and assessing their skill level. Preceptor services are often stretched between patient care and student supervision, creating a tight demand for their time, Goodfellow said.
To adjust to these changes, programs such as the one at Perimeter College are broadening their focus beyond traditional clinical settings.
“We have to think more and more outside the box to provide the quality of education students expect — so we’re not just in a hospital setting,” Goodfellow said. “We are working in skilled nursing facilities and health clinics, in doctors’ offices — and in fire stations.”
Even as nurses look for new ways to broaden their healthcare training, students are still required to get traditional “bedside” experience, said Perimeter’s Freeman.
Currently, the Georgia State associate degree nursing program at Perimeter College has agreements with Piedmont Hospital locations (Newton and Rockdale), Gwinnett Medical Center, Northside Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta for their specific clinical hours, she said. They also train with the college’s robotic simulation models, which mimic vital signs for a man, woman and child. While the “sim” training provides valuable experience to the students, it does not replace the need for real one-on-one contact with human beings, she said.