Alumni Profile: April Fehlinger Creates NSAIDS Program to Help Students Achieve a Better Life
When I started my educational journey with Chamberlain University, the plan was to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and continue working toward my Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) within the Nurse Executive track. While in the BSN program however, one course stood out and ultimately changed the direction of my future. The course was Cultural Diversity in the Professions. Although I don't remember every detail of the class, I do remember it being very challenging and thought provoking. It was during that class I realized that I wanted to do something more...something beyond becoming a nurse executive. I knew I wanted to have a bigger impact on others and ultimately in our community. After beginning the MSN program, I changed my major to the Nurse Educator track.
Shortly after graduating Chamberlain with my MSN, I began teaching nursing at a community college. It didn't take long to realize many of our students were not the traditional nursing student. Nursing school is extremely challenging for anyone, yet several students were struggling with a variety of obstacles while enrolled in our full-time nursing program.
Some obstacles students faced included: young, single parents, older adults seeking a new career, those with full-time jobs, homelessness, poverty, abuse and low self-esteem. Regardless of the obstacles, each student had one thing in common: they all wanted a better life. These students enrolled in our program to better themselves in hopes of a brighter future. I knew then I needed to help these students achieve success.
Four years ago, I created a group to support students – Nursing Students Advancing as Individuals and Determined to Succeed (NSAIDS.)
The group meets every Wednesday for an hour during lunch and is open to all nursing students. The topic varies depending on what the students need. The first three Wednesday's of every month are student-led. These are very informal and usually end up being tutoring sessions.
I have witnessed students from all semesters helping others with difficult concepts, such as pharmacology, med-surg or creating care plans. Sometimes students learn better from a peer who may explain it differently than the instructor. These sessions allow faculty to get to know our students on a more personal level. This not only creates a great learning environment but, it builds trust and allows for healthy relationships within the community.
The last Wednesday of the month is dedicated to a specific topic the students have requested.
Frequently requested topics include resume preparation, interview techniques, writing APA papers, breaking down NCLEX-style questions, time management/organization, anxiety reducing techniques and professionalism in nursing.
Students really look forward to this as it gives them a break from studying while they learn important life skills. I try to provide lunch and bottled water on these days for those who otherwise may not eat.
The vision of NSAIDS is to enhance our community by empowering individuals to achieve their full potential through personal growth and leadership. Our mission is to empower students from diverse backgrounds to achieve their full potential by providing guidance, encouragement, and the tools needed to be successful in nursing and in life.
Modeled by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we share the belief that every person is capable and has the desire to advance toward the level of self-actualization. Self-actualization is seeking growth and the realization or fulfillment of one's talents and potentialities. Our goal is for every student to become responsible leaders within their community by acquiring the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to attain intellectual, professional, and personal growth.
When I started NSAIDS four years ago, we met monthly and just covered whatever topic the students wanted. The average attendance was about eight to 10 students per session. The program has since grown to approximately 30-35 students on average, requiring a weekly get-together.
This has been a very valuable resource for our students in so many ways. My personal goal for NSAIDS, is to help my students see their worth, their value and their potential. I have seen so many students increase their confidence through this program, and several tell me they would have given up on nursing school had it not been for NSAIDS.
I now know why I switched my track from nursing executive to nursing education so many years ago. Nothing compares to the joy I feel every day seeing our students succeed in life and in our community.
Chamberlain alumnus, April Fehlinger - MSN, RN is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville, Indiana.
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