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Four nursing faculty members nationally recognized for teaching methods

By Judy Currin
ECU News Services

Recipients of the national DAISY award from East Carolina University are, left to right, Mel Swanson, Becky Bagley, Mark Hand and Betty Lease. Photo by Cliff Hollis
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Oct. 6, 2011)   —   Engaging students in different ways has garnered nationwide recognition for four faculty members in the East Carolina University College of Nursing.

Mark Hand, Betty Lease, Becky Bagley and Dr. Mel Swanson received the DAISY (Diseases Attacking the Immune System) Award for outstanding nurse educators by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The award was created by the DAISY Foundation and AACN to provide nursing schools with a national recognition program designed to honor teachers for their commitment and inspirational influence on future generations of nurses.

Hand is a clinical assistant professor in undergraduate nursing science, junior division. Lease is a clinical assistant professor in undergraduate nursing science, senior division.

Bagley is an assistant clinical professor and director of nurse-midwifery in the graduate nursing science department. Swanson is a professor in the doctoral program.

Students, peers and clinical staff in affiliated practice sites and school administrators may nominate honorees. Participating institutions choose recipients. Each winner received a hand-carved Healer's Touch sculpture, a DAISY pin and certificate.

The DAISY Foundation was established in 1999 by the family of Patrick Barnes, who died at age 33 of complications from Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. While he was in the hospital for eight weeks, his family was awed by the clinical skill and compassion they experienced from the nurses who cared for him and his family. After his death, they created a foundation to honor nursing excellence and research.

The AACN is the national voice for university and four-year college education programs in nursing representing more than 640 member schools.

Mark Hand

In his fourth year with the college, Mark Hand emphasizes large doses of patient contact with his undergraduate nursing students and the value of a one-on-one exchange of information gained through patient health assessments. "Devising a plan of care that identifies the specific needs of the patient and how those needs will be addressed is an invaluable teaching tool," Hand said.

"Today's students are technologically savvy. Armed with smart phones, iPods, and iPads, the Millennial Generation, born after 1981, expect convenient, anytime, anyplace replies to their questions," Hand said.

"I believe it is important to use a variety of teaching methods to reach individual learning styles of my students. As educators we have to find ways to connect with the students and constantly evaluate our teaching methods."

Hand's teaching philosophy focuses on engagement, minimizing traditional lectures. He finds presenting students with case studies and clinical nursing issues is an effective way to get them involved and interested in what they are learning.

"An example of clinical issues may involve a patient who doesn't understand their illness," Hand said. "There may be a language barrier, or maybe the patient is an adolescent." The question posed to the student becomes, "now what do we do?"

"Mark Hand is an excellent clinician and student advocate," said Dr. Janice Neil, clinical assistant professor in undergraduate nursing science, junior division and department chair. "His enthusiasm for learning is contagious as is his commitment to the success of our pre-licensure students."

Nursing is a second career for Hand, who hails from Massachusetts. "My first career was counseling mentally challenged individuals," he said. A nagging need to pursue the medical field landed him at a local hospital in New Hampshire sterilizing operating room equipment. Hand went on to receive a bachelor of science and a master of science in nursing from the University of New Hampshire.

He is enrolled in the doctoral nursing program at ECU. He believes getting his students involved in the learning process will assist them in becoming lifelong learners.

Hand is involved in service activities, which include revitalizing the college's Relay for Life team as well as assisting the students to take over the leadership in subsequent years.

He is president of the North Carolina branch of the National League for Nursing. "Its purpose is to support and implement the mission of the NLN to advance quality nursing education to meet the unique needs of diverse populations in an ever changing health care environment," Neil said. "It is a high honor, not only for him, but for the College of Nursing."

On receiving the DAISY Award, Hand said it is an honor to be recognized by fellow faculty.

Becky Bagley

Becky Bagley is a proud ECU alumna who received undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees from the College of Nursing.

"It is an honor to be recognized for excellence in teaching by the AACN and my fellow faculty," she said.

"I had no idea that people took notice of my teaching methods. The recognition makes me want to work even harder to be the best that I can be," said Bagley, on staff since 2005.

The graduate students enrolled in Bagley's predominately online midwifery concentration are adult learners who are committed to the program. "Keeping them involved and feeling a part of the class is always a challenge," Bagley said.

Technology helps. "We have regular online chats," she said. "I present possible patient scenarios for students to discuss." She also poses questions about how they'll handle different aspects of the scenario. Discussion boards, blogs and emails are also useful communication tools.

The Virtual Practice Exercise is a favorite and effective teaching method. Students divide into groups and create their own virtual midwifery practice.

The students prepare an "on call" weekly schedule where they respond to a phone call from the faculty posing as a patient or patient's family member. Students then post to the discussion board where fellow students critique and add to the management plan.

"It's a safe environment for the students to encounter and respond to very real situations," Bagley said.

Hands-on teaching opportunities occur in the simulation lab where Bagley is able to demonstrate the breaking of an expectant mother's bag of water using water balloons in tube socks.

"Becky is a pleasure to work with," said Dr. Elizabeth Jesse, associate professor in graduate nursing science. "She works hard to address problems as they come up, always in a manner that will improve our nursing program."

Bagley joined the faculty in 2005 after 11 years with Greenville OB/GYN. She has taught childbirth education classes to couples in eastern North Carolina for 23 years. Recent acceptance into the doctorate of nursing practice program at Duke will prevent her from continuing the childbirth classes, at least for now.

Her area of research will focus on delaying cord clamping on the infant immediately after delivery.

"If we could just wait a minute or two before cutting the cord, the baby can receive the blood that is still in the placenta, decreasing the amount of anemia and/or hypovolemia they sometimes experience," she said.

Bagley is the daughter of Don Clemens, an ECU chemistry professor from 1965 until his retirement in 1995. "I was raised on ECU money and received two degrees from this fine institution," she said.

"I bleed purple and gold."

Dr. Mel Swanson Dr. Mel Swanson is the first to admit his doctoral level courses in applied statistics and quantitative methods are difficult and perceived by some to be boring.

"I always try to imagine myself as a student sitting in my classroom wondering how best to present a concept or statistical analysis so that it can be understood," said Swanson, a professor, statistician and 37-year veteran educator in the college.

He relies on teaching strategies proven to effectively convey statistical principles. He uses case studies of actual research and dissertation studies as well as real-life examples.

"Over the years I have learned to read the student's eyes," Swanson said. "Blank stares are always a good indicator that whatever you are doing is not working."

He strives to have the class function as a seminar to encourage verbal participation, emphasizing that making mistakes is necessary for true understanding and research skill development. "In my classroom there is no such thing as a stupid question," he said.

"I like for my students to see me as a fellow researcher who wants to share his knowledge and experience of statistics and quantitative methods to help them conduct independent research," Swanson said.

Swanson tailors his research to coincide with whatever areas the doctoral students he is working with are studying.

Dr. Martha Engelke, associate dean of graduate nursing science, said Swanson works tirelessly to support doctoral students, teaching three courses in the doctoral program. He participates in candidacy exams and has served on numerous doctoral and dissertation committees.

"He is known for his ability to connect with students on a professional and personal level," Engelke said. "He makes complex subjects fun." She said that doctoral students from other disciplines such as marriage and family relations choose to take his class to meet their statistics requirement.

"As a colleague who has worked with Dr. Swanson on numerous projects, I am impressed by his commitment to fostering a love of learning and in helping students develop a high quality research proposal which results in projects than can improve nursing practice and nursing education," Engelke said. "His leadership and professional commitment to excellence serve as a role model to all nurses."

Swanson views the DAISY Award recognition as a " ‘Thank you' from all the nursing doctoral students that I have had the pleasure to teach, collaborate with, and help to become nurse researchers."

Betty Lease

For the past 18 years, Betty Lease has taught psychiatric/mental health clinicals to fourth-year nursing students at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro.

The 274-bed inpatient psychiatric hospital offers six major treatment units, which include adolescent, adult acute admissions, geriatric admissions, psychiatric rehabilitation, psychiatric medical, and tuberculosis.

"Working with and caring for the persistently mental ill adult and adolescent patient population is both challenging and rewarding," Lease said. "It can also be stressful for our fourth-year students, even though they are more mature academically and in their clinical practice."

While psychiatric mental health nursing utilizes nursing care plans and seeks to care for the whole person, the emphasis of mental health nursing is on the development of a therapeutic relationship. "It is important for our students to develop a relationship of trust, empathy and support with their patients," Lease said.

As an educator, Lease sees her role as one of support and mentorship.

"I try to offer my students the same level of patience, confidence, integrity and care that I expect them to offer their patients," she said. "It facilitates learning."

Her anonymous faculty nominator for the award said: "Lease's skills in the area of psychiatric nursing with patients in varied clinical settings are truly inspiring. Even those students who ‘do not like' psychiatric nursing share her engagement and joy in her clinical area. She motivates her students and peers to ‘see' the importance of psychiatric/mental health nursing in all avenues of life."

"Lease represents the best in nursing education," the nomination said. "She is knowledgeable, clinically astute, professional and collaborative."

Lease, a native eastern North Carolinian, lives in New Bern. She received masters' degrees in nursing and in rehabilitation counseling from ECU.

"Being recognized as an outstanding nurse educator by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing is in a word, humbling," she said.


Contact: Judy Currin | 252-328-6481