"I want people to say, ‘These are St. Ambrose nurses. They care, they're kind and they know what they're doing.' Hard work, intelligence, humility and trustworthiness are attributes of St. Ambrose nurses."
"When you know students are going to become the kind of nurses you would want taking care of your own family, that's a great feeling."
Whether she's bringing textbook material alive or teaching essential writing skills, Sharon Marquard is creating a new generation of nurses. And they're the type you'd want to care for your own family.
A student doesn't just pass a philosophy course; the course teaches students how to think. General education courses broaden the base of knowledge of a student and sharpen critical thinking skills. That's why the gen ed classes and liberal arts are a good base for nursing. Our nurses use creative thinking a lot better than nurses from most programs. And studies have shown that BSN nurses decrease the mortality rate in hospitals. The higher the percentage of nurses with four-year degrees, the lower the mortality rate.
Part of the difference between bachelor degree nurses and associate degree nurses are the gen ed classes that bachelor degree nurses take. They utilize critical thinking skills in patient care and all aspects of nursing.
When we talk about theories and concepts, the students often don't have experience to pin their knowledge on. So I translate that for them. I tell them what a working nurse would do with the information. I use a lot of storytelling. I'll take a concept we're studying and relate it to the cases and patients I've had. I keep the patient names and the particulars confidential, but I'll say, "In this situation, this is what we do. This is how it relates to the knowledge in the textbook." I try to make learning real, exciting and fun.
Being a rehab nurse, I've always worked with physical therapists and occupational therapists, and our program incorporates teamwork with these and other disciplines. We have an Interdisciplinary Day where the students from all the health care backgrounds at St. Ambrose get together to look at case studies. We discuss what nursing would do, what speech therapy would do, what physical and occupational therapy would do and what social work would do. Having those other health care professions at St. Ambrose is nice and convenient. We share equipment and lab space. Physical and occupational therapy are in the same building as nursing. Social work and speech pathology are located nearby.
Nurses have to chart, document and write-and good nurses write clearly and accurately. Over the course of the class, we see students use medical terminology more confidently and accurately. They'll start out, for example, saying, "The patient ate well." But what does that mean? Seventy-five percent or 50 percent? All of their meat and nothing else? Specificity is key. "A large wound" means nothing to the nurse, doctor or other health care professionals who read it. But listing the measurements-"6x10 cm, Stage 3 with red drainage"-tells another health care professional what the wound looks like without having to take a dressing off and see it. Good descriptive writing tells whether the patient is getting better or worse. Treatment and care may be changed or continued based on that.
In addition, nurses need to write and publish to share experiences and what they learn about the practice with others. Our students graduate with the ability to write well enough to publish and pursue graduate degrees.
Knowledge, good communication, organization and a the ability to connect with others are keys. Nurses are the hub of communication. I tell students this: "You are the ones who are with the patients day and night. The physician comes up and does an assessment. The physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist and social worker may have part of the patient's time-for about an hour a day anywhere from once per week to six times each week. But you are the one who sees the patient continuously and know how they are doing. You see the patient's family and friends, who trust you with a loved one's care. Take the trust and the job seriously, think about your patients and treat them as you and your family would want to be treated."
My career has been well spent. I have found my calling in being a nurse and teaching it. I've replaced myself in terms of being a practicing nurse many times with students who have graduated. I've encouraged students who didn't think they could make it. If I saw the ability in students, I gave them the extra shove or the encouragement to succeed.
When you can help students and see them succeed in part because of your help, and when you know they are going to be the kind of nurses you would want taking care of your own family, that's a great feeling. I can look on my life as having been very successful and having improved the world we live in because of my students and the kind of nurses they become. This may sound a bit corny but it is so true.