From the Desk of Dean Shannon
This spring, MSU held its first ever outdoor graduation celebration in Bobcat Stadium. The College of Nursing celebrated 102 students who earned Bachelor of Science degrees, 24 earning Doctor of Nursing Practice, and 3 Master of Nursing graduates. Each demonstrated resilience, perseverance, and determination by finishing their degrees during this time of pandemic.
In this newsletter, we are pleased to share some of their stories.
A year ago, it was difficult to imagine where we would be at this point. But thanks to the work of MSU College of Nursing students and faculty, COVID-19 vaccinations have been implemented at an unprecedented pace in Montana. After months of assisting with Covid testing for anxious and ill patients, MSU nursing students switched to providing vaccinations to often joyful and relieved people. MSU nursing students stepped up to serve Montanans during this unprecedented time, as faculty and staff worked to ensure the pipeline of new nurses, nurse leaders, and new nurse practitioners continued uninterrupted.
The past year has been an exercise in endurance, but also fertile ground for innovation. Drs. Angela Jukkala Jones and Denise Rivera created new ways to use simulation to teach care of Veterans and transgender persons. Faculty member Leesha Ford opened a crisis nursery to serve the Great Falls community. Dr. Sally Moyce deepened service to the Latinx community in Montana through the group, Salud!.
As I take stock of the past sixteen months, I am grateful for the pure grit demonstrated by MSU nursing students, faculty, and staff. Bobcat nurses stepped up to serve Montana and, in turn, many across Montana stepped up to support Bobcat nursing in large and small ways. Generous donations from both longtime and new friends of the College have allowed us to provide student scholarships to more students than ever before. Contributions to the Dean’s Excellence Fund have allowed me to meet both unexpected expenses and innovation opportunities. Thank you to each of you who helped MSU College of Nursing to fulfill our teaching, scholarship, and service mission during this past year. We are deeply grateful for the trust you have placed in us.
Best wishes for a summer of reconnection, renewal, and recreation,
Students from MSU College of Nursing’s five campuses provide support during pandemic
Students from MSU College of Nursing’s five campuses provide support during pandemic. Those efforts have included helping administer COVID-19 vaccines, serving on teams created to provide relief to health care workers at critical access hospitals across Montana – including in many rural parts of the state – working as contact tracers and helping with COVID-19 testing.
"Our community organizations reach out for help from our student nurses when they have a big task to accomplish." - Jorden Teller, Associate Clinical Professor
An Amazing Show of Bobcat Spirit!
On Saturday, Feb. 6, through the collective efforts of University Health Partners staff, College of Nursing students and faculty, WWAMI students and faculty, Gallatin College medical assistant students and faculty, and MSU partners, over 800 Pfizer vaccines were delivered to MSU students, faculty, and staff in the state and county's 1B priority group.
"Saturday was not just a vaccine clinic but the largest interprofessional education event to ever occur at MSU." - Dean Sarah Shannon
Congratulations to the three nursing students who received the Awards for Excellence in the College of Nursing
Honored students are nominated by faculty in their college or department. Qualified seniors must have at least a 3.5 grade point average on a 4.0 scale, as well as demonstrated campus leadership and community service.
- Aryn Blake, nursing (Kalispell campus), Thousand Oaks, California; mentor Angele Romero. Aryn also received the Torlief Aasheim Community Involvement award for the College of Nursing. During the annual Awards for Excellence event, one student from each college is selected from among the Awards for Excellence winners and presented with this additional award. Named in honor of the late Torlief 'Torley' Aasheim, '37, a committed community volunteer, this award recognizes seniors with outstanding academic achievements and a record of campus involvement, who also give of themselves for the betterment of the community.
- Abbey Miller, nursing (Billings campus), Bozeman; mentor Anjelika Patton
- Rachel Nixon, nursing (Bozeman campus), Bozeman; Kristin Davis
Before Rachel and Jonathan Selhost started college at the Montana State University College of Nursing’s Kalispell campus, they already knew the program was the right place for them. It was in their DNA.
This May, Rachel and Jonathan will become the latest of their siblings to graduate from MSU’s College of Nursing, bringing the total to five. Their older sister, Tarrah, graduated from the Kalispell campus in 2014, and their older brothers, Kyle and Michael, graduated from the Great Falls campus in 2017 and 2018, respectively. They also have a younger sister.
“We’re all Bobcats and that’s so cool.” - Rachel Selhost
Living around three nursing students heavily influenced Rachel and Jonathan’s career choice. They said they were inspired by the passion each brother and sister had when discussing their experiences in their respective careers. But it wasn’t just the family that swayed their vocation choice. Becoming a nurse aligned with Rachel’s and Jonathan’s love for helping people.
“Nursing is a very flexible field, and you always have to be ready to work with patients, administer customer service, change schedules and move people where you need them. - Jonathan Selhost
Both siblings recently accepted nursing positions in the medical unit at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Their sister Tarrah and brother Michael also work at the hospital.
With their college careers ending, both said that learning to be open-minded and adaptable were the most important takeaways from MSU. (photo - MSU University Communications)
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: Montana State University
- Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
- Currently Located In: Great Falls, MT
- Interesting Fact: I currently hold three nursing positions: Public Health Nurse, Substitute School Nurse, and Primary Care Nurse.
- Track: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Family Nurse Practitioner
- Undergrad: Carroll College
- Hometown: Helena, MT
- Currently Located In: Kalispell, MT
- Interests: Outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, lake days, skiing, and hiking
- Interesting Fact: I traveled across Italy with my mom!
- Track: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Psychiatric/Mental Health
- Undergrad: University of New Mexico
- Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Currently Located In: Polson, MT
- Interests: Reading, Gardening, Photography, Dragging my Husband to Art Shows, Spending time with my family
- Interesting Fact: My husband and I welcomed our first child (a baby girl!) at the beginning of the school year.
MSU nursing instructor helps launch nonprofit crisis nursery for children in Great Falls
As an undergraduate nursing student, Leesha Ford focused her research on preventing abusive head trauma in children and shaken baby syndrome. As an obstetrics nurse, she identified babies who might be at higher risk for abuse and ways to provide additional resources to help families keep their children safe. So when Ford started teaching pediatrics and obstetrics at the Montana State University College of Nursing’s Great Falls campus in 2015, it was natural for her to continue with a focus on child abuse prevention, she said.
“I feel super passionate about this. It is so fulfilling to hear the stories of the families that are getting helped. … I just think it’s something I want to duplicate over and over again in every community, because kids are precious.”
Now, Ford has parlayed her years of experience as a nurse and educator focused on preventing child abuse to help create and open a nonprofit crisis nursery in Great Falls. Toby’s House Crisis Nursery – which provides a safe, nurturing environment for children up to age 6 – opened last December.
As part of its efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, the crisis nursery offers services to families and caregivers at no charge and with no income requirements for services. It also offers referrals that link parents and caregivers to community resources to build resilience and strengthen families. In addition, it provides families with needed supplies, such as diapers, bedding and clothes, as well as food.
The nursery is named for October Perez of Great Falls, known to some as “Toby,” who was 2 when she died from abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend in 2011.
Importantly, Ford said, unlike some children’s shelters in Montana, Toby’s House works with children and families before children have been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services.
MSU College of Nursing, partners providing pediatric dental care and health screenings to Blackfeet Nation
One Community In Health
Early dental screenings for children can help prevent cavities and tooth decay, which can lead to pain, medical issues and trouble concentrating in school. But in some areas of Montana, the nearest pediatric dentist may be many miles away, making it challenging for some families to access care.
Now, an effort by the Montana State University College of Nursing and its partners to provide dental care and health screenings to children has expanded to the Blackfeet Nation in northwest Montana thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust.
“We are deeply grateful to the Otto Bremer Trust for enabling this important program to expand. Just as funding from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services is funding care for children at Northern Cheyenne, this support is providing critical dental care for hundreds of children who are part of the Blackfeet Nation.” - Laura Larsson
The grant enables MSU and its partners to provide services and screenings to approximately 400 children on the Blackfeet Reservation this year. The program expands similar services that have been offered to the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and funded by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services since 2018, said Laura Larsson, MSU nursing professor who developed and leads the program, called One Community in Health.
“Our program combines the expertise of faculty and clinicians with the enthusiasm of undergraduate nursing students to bridge the gap in meeting Head Start and Early Head Start requirements for Montana tribes." - Laura Larsson
MSU nursing instructor recognized nationally as advocate of nurse practitioners
Kelly Gregory received the American Association of Nurse Practitioners’ 2021 State Award for Nurse Practitioner Advocate. The award is given annually to one individual in each state who has made a significant contribution toward increasing awareness and recognition of nurse practitioners. Gregory, the state of Montana’s advocate awardee this year, and the other states’ recipients will be honored during the national association’s annual conference.
"I am honored to receive this award and feel motivated every day by the amazing network of nurse practitioners and nursing educators throughout Montana that continue to shape the future of nursing.” - Kelly Gregory
Learning to Cultivate Student Engagement by Providing High Level Simulation
Interested, involved and inquisitive. These three words describe what students should be experiencing during simulation sessions. To promote student engagement a mix of twenty-two faculty, DNP students, and community partners participated in a week-long intensive simulation course offered by the Harvard Centers for Medical Simulation. The focus of the course was to train educators to provide high level simulation experiences through simulation development to evaluation. Participants learned how to develop effective simulations, implement simulations within curriculum, and how to evaluate participants using “Debriefing with Good Judgment” skills. All aspects of the course are considered the gold standard for best practices in simulation.
This ANEW project, the Rural Ready Nurse Practitioner Program, is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $2.8 million with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government."
“So much amazing content to take away and use in my role as an educator.”
“The course was amazing, I am overwhelmed but in the best way possible.”
“Very engaging, we received one on one feedback from leaders in the world of simulation. I had several “aha” moments.”
“This training is exactly what I needed. I feel invigorated and ready to take my simulation and teaching to the next level.”
SALUD: Scientists and Latinx United against Disparities
Montana has a mental health provider shortage, which hits Spanish-speaking persons particularly hard because there are less than a handful of Spanish-language mental health counselors in the state. Working through an initiative called SALUD: Scientists and Latinx United against Disparities, Dr. Sally Moyce is attempting to address the workforce shortage by specially training community health workers. Known as promotores de salud in Spanish, these community members provide culturally and linguistically tailored resources to the Spanish-speaking community. Funded by the MSU Center for Mental Health Research and Recovery, the study will match persons with anxiety and depression with promotores who will provide motivational interviewing counseling. The team hopes the intervention will help increase resources for mental illness for the growing Spanish-speaking population in Montana.
Simulation for Enhanced Learning: Caring for Veterans Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis
As a nation, we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis in the mental healthcare of Veterans. Between 2007 and 2017 the number of Veteran suicides doubled; by the end of 2020 that number had increased an alarming 25%. These facts are especially meaningful in Montana, with 1 in 10 residents also being a Veteran. Dr. Jukkala and her research team are exploring ways to understand and support Veteran’s preferences when engaging in healthcare treatment decision making. Part of this work is helping nursing educators find meaningful opportunities to prepare nurses to care for Montana’s large Veteran population. To meet this need Dr. Jukkala and an interprofessional team comprised of Combat Vet Center leadership and therapists, nursing students, and veterans developed 2 innovative education simulations. The goal of these simulations (Psych Simulation: PTSD with Suicidal Ideation and Psych Simulation: Military Sexual Trauma) is to enhance nursing student knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding the provision of nursing care for a Veteran experiencing a mental health crisis. A second component of Dr. Jukkala’s work with Montana’s Veterans is seeking to better understand patient activation and the process of shared healthcare decision making. Through these and other actions, Dr. Jukkala’s team hopes to better serve Montana’s Veteran population through trauma informed nursing care and engaging patients and families in healthcare treatment decision making.
Tele-Nursing Simulation Educational Intervention For the Transgender Population
1.4 million people in the United States are transgender and represent a growing population. With this population increasing nurses need the educational preparation to provide safe high-quality care for this population. Working in partnership with the transgender community Dr. Rivera is attempting to address this need through the creation of the Tele-Nursing Simulation Educational Intervention (TNTSEI). This educational simulation will enable students to engage with real transgender clients at varying stages of their transition. TNTSEI will offer students a safe learning environment to engage with and understand the barriers to healthcare and the nursing needs of the transgender patient. Dr. Rivera and her research team aim to expand the educational preparation of nurses locally, regionally, and nationally using data from the TNTSEI research project.
Photos (not credited in the newsletter) are by Susan Myers-Clack