From the Desk of Dean Shannon
Hello and hope this message finds you and yours healthy and safe.
It has been a year since our world changed dramatically with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. January 21, 2020, the first case of Covid-19 was identified in a man from Washington State. By mid-March 2020, MSU College of Nursing had rapidly transitioned to all-online learning. The ensuing months have required CON students, faculty, and staff to be resilient, dedicated, and compassionate. In this newsletter, we’ll share some of their stories.
It has been a difficult time for the world, for our country, and for health care. Yet, daily in newspapers, on TV, and in social media, we see examples of the importance of nurses, nurse leaders, and nurse educators. For the 19th year in a row, Americans have rated nurses the #1 most ethical and honest profession by a 12-percentage point margin over the next most highly regarded profession. During this pandemic, nursing knowledge and expertise has been more visible and more valued.
Yet I do not want to minimize the challenges. Nurses everywhere – including nursing students and faculty – have been bombarded with new clinical demands, additional stressors, and challenges to the “normal” learning environment. I have never been so grateful for the Dean’s Excellence Fund, which has allowed me to provide the extra support and adaptations to ensure our students have continued to be successful during this pandemic. From hiring extra graduate teaching assistants to supporting student travel to obtain critical in-person clinical experiences, with the help of generous donors, I have invested in MSU Bobcat nursing.
Students are the future of the nursing profession. The MSU CON faculty and staff are committed to supporting them during this time to become trusted, caring, and competent.
Effects of the Pandemic on Nurses
The year 2020 was celebrated as the Year of the Nurse. What a year it was. A pandemic. Shocking. Frightening. Nurses everywhere rose to the challenge, but how did the pandemic effect nurses? Dr. Peter Buerhaus, professor in the College of Nursing, is leading a two-year study about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nurses. The study will research whether employment in certain settings grew during the pandemic, assess regional differences and seek to better understand if the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on earnings and employment by race, ethnicity, gender and age. Over the past 20 years, Buerhaus and his team have conducted numerous studies on the nursing workforce. Regardless of the pandemic’s effects on the nursing workforce, Buerhaus said, one thing is clear: nurses will continue to be as crucial as they always have been.
“Over the last century, nurses have faced many shocks, including world wars and economic recessions, but they have not experienced a pandemic in modern times. For the country’s well-being, it is critical to track and understand the effects of COVID-19 on the nursing workforce.” - Peter Buerhaus
Nursing, Basketball and COVID
“I have learned so much in my time in the nursing program and I have loved every part of it.” – Tori Martell
COVID-19 put a stop to the Bobcat Women’s 19-1 2019-2020 conference season when the pandemic ended the NCAA tournaments. For Tori Martell, senior nursing student, she had to deal with changes to classes and clinicals and a shocking end to a winning season. How does someone deal with this? According to head Coach Tricia Binford, Tori is focused, disciplined, and dedicated. Admirable skills for balancing a rigorous basketball schedule on top of a challenging major. Tori doesn’t remember when she decided to go into nursing, she knew she wanted to be in a medical field. MSU’s nursing program was a good fit. “The professors in the College of Nursing just love Bobcat Athletics. Most ask me about our games, they cheer us on, and have been accommodating with my schedule,” said Tori. She found studying to become a nurse and being a student athlete to be intense but found transferable skills from basketball to nursing. Tori said, “Basketball has taught me so much in regard to being a good nurse, it has taught me how to be a good teammate and supportive to those around me which is crucial in nursing.” Becoming the best nurse possible while learning new skills is in Tori’s future. She wants to work in Obstetrics or a NICU and eventually become a Nurse Practitioner. Focused, disciplined, and dedicated, indeed.
“I want to start with tremendous gratitude for our Nursing Department and Montana State for helping work with Tori and her schedule to allow her to excel in both the classroom and on the court.” – Head Coach Tricia Binford
Always Ready Always There
Army National Guard Motto
“As leaders, we are expected to care for the needs of our soldiers before we care for our own needs, and I feel that carries over to nursing, and a lot of nurses can relate to that.” – Connor Meron
Connor Meron, ROTC Cadet and BSN student, combined his nursing education with his service as a member of the Montana Army National Guard to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Meron volunteered this past fall to spend two weeks working in the infirmary at the Montana State Prison. Meron began each day at 4 a.m., his shifts consisted of 12 hours of work plus a long commute each day. He helped nurses test inmates for COVID-19, and he monitored the health of inmates who had tested positive for the virus. He also provided basic care, such as taking vital signs, blood sugars, passing out meals and cleaning. There were no days off; by the end of his two-week deployment he worked 210 hours. After his unit deployed to aid the State Prison, Meron received orders to help with COVID patients at the Billings Clinic, again working long shifts. Through both of his deployments Meron was able to successfully complete his nursing courses. The days were long and tiring, but Meron said he was motivated – both as a future nurse and as a member of the National Guard – by a desire to help others.
“After Cadet Meron completes his nursing degree, he will become an officer in the Montana National Guard. Cadet Meron is a great mentor for the other cadets and highly motivated. The ROTC program is lucky to have Cadet Meron, and the Montana Army National Guard is fortunate to have him as a future officer.” -Cahle Clampitt with MSU ROTC in Billings
Effecting the Lives of Nursing Students
Generosity at its finest. Diane Towers is grateful for the excellent care provided at Bozeman Health and was excited about the opportunity to give back to future frontline healthcare workers. Working with the MSU Alumni Foundation Diane established a nursing scholarship to support up to eight nursing students each year. This scholarship will be awarded to nursing students with financial need who are completing their clinicals in Bozeman. Diane Towers is a graduate of Penn State and received her nursing degree at Cornell. She worked as a public health nurse in Seattle before relocating to Bozeman and serving as an RN in a general practitioner’s office.
“We can make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill
Diversity and Inclusion Training
This fall the College of Nursing faculty and staff took part in a three-hour diversity and inclusion training lead by Kupiri W. Ackerman-Barger, Ph.D., R.N., C.N.E., F.A.A.N. Ackerman-Barger is associate dean for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and an associate clinical professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. She also serves as a national consultant and speaker on strategies to help underserved and under-represented groups in health professions thrive academically.
The feedback was tremendous:
“This was a fabulous presentation. Dr. Ackerman-Barger helped us all recognize how our own biases may impact our students and gave us opportunities to help promote diversity in our classrooms.”
I was thoroughly engaged in the content.”
“This was excellent and I am so happy to see the CON making a commitment to increasing diversity and inclusion. I hope we continue to have presentations and workshops like this one.”
“I appreciate the opportunity to listen and learn from Dr. Ackerman-Barger. Her presentation was so informative and thought provoking. I also understand that we have a lot of work to do in the area of diversity and inclusion.”
“Excellent and timely presentation.”
Distinguished Nurse of the Year Award
Leesha Ford, clinical nursing instructor, received the Distinguished Nurse of the Year award. The statewide award, which was founded in honor of nurse Trudy Malone, is given annually by the Montana Nurses Association. Candidates for the award must be association members who are knowledgeable, dynamic leaders committed to professional ethics, improving patient care and fostering teamwork.
“Leesha is one of the most ethical nurses I have ever known. She is a team worker and collaborator, and models positive quality improvement.” – Laurie Glover
COVID-19 Behind Bars
COVID-19 made itself known in the Cascade County Detention Center. On August 18th 2020, Paul Krogue, the jail’s medical director and a CON Assistant Clinical Professor, received a phone call that a symptomatic patient, located in a general population pod, was suffering from shortness of breath and a high fever. The patient was isolated and within 24 hours, the staff as the Detention Center had performed COVID-19 tests on every individual at the Detention Center. Testing revealed that COVID-19 was rampant among the general population. Krogue’s small medical team spent the next three months fighting the hold COVID-19 had in this population. During this time the medical team tested every person in the center for COVID-19 more than 15 times to ensure that no individual was missed. When the initial crisis had passed, over three hundred patients had become ill from COVID-19 and gratefully the fatality count was zero. Krogue said, “Like healthcare workers everywhere, COVID-19 came crashing down around us. But, like so many others, our small team of dedicated nurses stood up, showed up, and provided outstanding evidence-based care to some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.”
Students in Action
Nursing students at their best. BSN students from the Billings campus supported their local health care community by administering flu vaccinations this fall to hundreds of workers at St. Vincent Healthcare. Jordan Teller, associate clinical professor and a family nurse practitioner, said St. Vincent Healthcare had planned to have nurses operate a flu shot cart daily to vaccinate hospital staff. MSU nursing students were invited to help administer the vaccinations, but when the time came to roll out the cart, there weren’t any St. Vincent’s nurses available to staff it. Teller asked if she could take the flu shot cart around, supervising the Bobcat nursing students, and the administrators agreed. Teller estimated that the students administered vaccinations to 225 individuals over the 11 days. Teller said she and the students were honored to provide a service to St. Vincent staff in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they also acquired valuable clinical experience.
Rural Ready Nurse Practitioners
The College of Nursing in collaboration with Montana Area Health Education Center received a federal grant of nearly $2.8 million to prepare Doctor of Nurse Practice students to be Rural Ready Nurse Practitioners. The Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) Training grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides financial and education assistance to individuals dedicated to practice in a Rural Setting.
Introducing a few of our current ANEW Scholars:
Track: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Family/Individual
Undergrad: Carroll College, Helena, MT
Hometown: Great Falls, MT
Currently Located In: Kalispell, MT
Interests: Music, fishing, rafting, hiking, and just about anything involving our two dogs (a yellow lab and a black lab).
Interesting Fact: I’m a HUGE fan of concerts! I’ve travelled all the way to Texas just to see a band that was doing a limited tour. I’ve also seen several artists more than once.
Track: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Family/Individual
Undergrad: National Taipei College of Nursing
Hometown: Miaoli, Taiwan
Currently Located In: Missoula, MT
Interests: I love traveling and finding inspiration through books, conversations, dramas, etc.
Interesting Fact: I started my nursing education from a vocational high school. Later, I attended Chungtai Junior College to further my education. Then, I worked as a PICU nurse at National Taiwan University Hospital for three years. Afterwards, I decided to go back to school again for something different - medical and nursing management at the National Taipei College of Nursing. In 2002, I came to Montana with my husband and passed the NCLEX in the same year. I currently work as an RN in Missoula.
Track: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Psychiatric/Mental Health
Undergrad: Montana State University
Hometown: Kalispell, MT
Currently Located In: Missoula, MT
Interests: Reading, writing and teaching nursing students as well as nature walks and hikes with my husband
Interesting Fact: I have evolved in 20 years as a nurse in Montana, from the bedside to leadership and teaching in a nursing program. I have earned 2 master’s degrees, both in leadership and management - an MHA and an MSN.
Photos by Susan Myers-Clack