College of Nursing professor Elizabeth Essman '75, G'78, G'94 likes to play games with her students. The students don't mind; games like Bacterial Bingo and Ms. Pathophyzz help them remember the staggering amount of information they'll need as nurse practitioners. "A lot of the work is memorization," says Essman, a nursing faculty member since 1995. "Using games makes learning more fun for the students and for me."
College of Nursing professor Elizabeth Essman uses innovative methods to help students learn the vast amount of information they'll need in the profession.
Bacterial Bingo is particularly useful in the state-required course NUR 683, Pharmacology and Prescribing Practices for Advanced Nursing Practitioners. The 3,000-page Physician's Desk Referencecan hardly be carried on rounds, so memorization of various drug treatments is crucial. "If you don't know whether the drug you're ordering is effective against one particular bacterium that causes pneumonia, then it doesn't do you much good," Essman says. The game is played on bingo cards, with questions being called out instead of numbers.
Several years ago, Essman developed Ms. Pathophyzz to teach various diagnoses. Similar to Trivial Pursuit, the game has categories that cover different systems of the body. A question from the endocrine system category asks: "The most important test to be done in identifying associated complications and risk factors of diabetes mellitus is: A) urinalysis; B) fasting lipid profile; C) creatinine; or D) thyroid function tests. (The answer is B.) "It's a review of old information, a reinforcement of new," Essman says. "But it's done in a way that makes it fun, not a chore."
Essman's innovation extends to the team-teaching method she uses in the pharmacology course. For the last three years, she has brought in pharmacist and adjunct professor Mariane McLaughlin to lecture. "This course is unique because it combines the strengths of both pharmacology and nursing," she says. "I cannot compete with the knowledge base of pharmacists, and they can't compete with how we apply that informationhow we can assess the patients in front of us, look at all their health problems, their resources, their environment, their family support, their knowledge base, their ability to learn about their drugsand come up with a pharmacological plan that works. This is the way to get the best of both worlds."
Essman's association with the College of Nursing began as a student in the registered nurse (R.N.) baccalaureate program. "Syracuse University was always on the cutting edge of education in nursing," she says. "The school was one of the first in the country to have a program for R.N.s to get their baccalaureate degrees. That was a phenomenal change for nurses."
She became interested in community health nursing while working on her degreeso much so that she pursued a master's degree in the area. "I love the concept of giving care where it's needed," she says, "keeping the clients where they want to be, in their homes, their own environments."
Essman taught community health nursing at the SUNY College of Technology in Utica for eight years before returning to SU to pursue a doctoral degree in adult education. "I hoped it would make me a better teacher, a better community health nurse," she says. "I could see this match between community nursing, which deals primarily with adults, and the adult education doctorate."
Her interest in pharmacology grew partly from her community nursing experiences, she says. Her patients were given lists of as many as 10 drugs upon being discharged from the hospital. The lists used trade names, but pharmacists filled them generically; names on medicine bottles bore no resemblance to what the patients had been told they would be taking. She receives great satisfaction from teaching her students how to help patients sort out all of those drugs. "I like to see that light go on when students have figured out something that's particularly difficult to learn," she says. "Then I know they really understand which drug to order for which condition."
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