Collaborative Learning

Posted on Sep 14, 2017

On Friday, August 25, 2017, Ellen Storm, Dean of Allied Health at Rock Valley College, spoke at the the ribbon cutting ceremony for the college’s new Health Sciences Center. In her remarks, she shared a descriptive hypothetical story that illustrated how the new facility could encourage collaborative learning between the college’s many healthcare programs.

Below is a transcript of Dean Storm’s remarks.

Ellen Storm, Dean of Allied Health at Rock Valley College, speaks at the the ribbon cutting ceremony for the college’s new Health Sciences Center on 8/25/17.

Long, long ago, in a land far, far away…okay maybe it was only about 10 years ago and only about 9 miles down the road…I was teaching in the Nursing Assistant program down at the Stenstrom Center, where I met Jacki Moss who teaches in the Respiratory Therapy program. There we had a conversation which sparked an idea, an idea now possible thanks to this building.  

Do any of you remember the days when you heard about a patient who had the wrong limb amputated? Or about how a patient died because of a medication error?  Oops, after all we are only human, right? In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, one of the major driving forces behind healthcare, published a document called “To Err is Human,” which unveiled the massive costs that errors have on patients and the country, for that matter, at different levels.  This led to the reinvention of how we focus education in the healthcare professions.  Recommendations were given to the multiple healthcare programs on how we are to educate our aspiring professionals. 

One of the core competencies recommended by the Institute of Medicine is to add Interdisciplinary Teamwork to education.  Do you realize that one person could very well experience the touch of the hand of an EMT, a nurse, a CNA, a phlebotomist, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technologist all in one given day? This is exactly what my conversation with Jacki revolved around. And how cool it would be to have her respiratory students teach the nursing students about oxygenation. Or how beneficial it would be to share instructors, to have the respiratory faculty, who are the experts in lungs, teach a day to the nursing students.

As educators and medical professionals, we can always talk about interdisciplinary teamwork, but to live it, to experience it, makes it real for students and brings life to learning. But, at that time, this seemed unattainable given the locations of our programs. However, this building gives us: Nursing, Respiratory Therapy, and all Allied Health partners, the opportunity to do just that.      

Picture this. John is getting dental work in our dental clinic and experiences what the Dental Hygiene students recognize as a heart attack.  What do they do? They call 911 where the EMT students arrive to work on John and then transport him to the ambulance.  Once they arrive to the ER,  care is handed over to nursing students, who also delegate specific tasks to the Nursing Assistant student.  We all know that everyone gets blood drawn in the ER, so a phlebotomy student is summoned to collect a specimen.  John continues to decline and Respiratory Therapy is called for immediate intervention.  A respiratory student arrives on the scene to administer a breathing treatment.  But this does not help and John takes a turn for the worse, requiring intubation.  While the respiratory student oxygenates John, the multiple diagnostic tests come back revealing that heart surgery is imminent and the team transports John down the hall, down the elevator, and into the OR suite where the Surgical Technology students take over and assist with a lifesaving surgery.

After surgery is completed, John is transported to the unit where the nursing students resume care. John, who was near death, survives and is able to walk his daughter down the aisle at her wedding.  Now, imagine a group of students and their instructors sitting around, reviewing the recorded scenario and engaging in full discussion about the whats, the whys, and the “if we could do it over again, what would we do differently?” scenarios. This debriefing, where learning is enhanced, is where light bulbs go on for students.   

So you see, this building is more than a grand entry with an amazing waterfall.  This building is more than a trendy way to keep up the Joneses of community colleges.  This building will give us the opportunity to implement the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine and deliver to our community the quality and safe healthcare professionals they deserve. This building will also give our nursing students an option to complete their BSN in their very own backyard. So I would like to take this opportunity to publicly welcome Saint Anthony’s College of Nursing to our Rock Valley campus community.  

On behalf of Nursing and Allied Health, I would like to thank those who planned this building, those who made it a reality, and those who work tirelessly to bring it to life.  You see, many people across Rock Valley College’s departments spent countless, sweat-endured days, relentlessly working to get our doors open for our students on Monday. We cannot thank you all enough for your dedication to education, and for supporting our programs.