MEMPHIS, Mo- Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” The average resident of northeast Missouri might be surprised to know how many health professions students complete some form of learning experience at Scotland County Hospital and Clinics in Memphis. The staff at the hospital and clinics that mentor these health professions students do all of that; they tell, teach and involve the students in their professions nearly every day.
Scotland County Hospital and Clinics hosts learners across multiple health professions each year. The clinics have Nurse Practitioner students to nursing students to medical school students. On the Medical-Surgical floor of the hospital, nearly every week, there are nursing students working from Southeastern Community College to Indian Hills Community College to Truman State University. The Laboratory and Radiology Departments host students from area community colleges, while students come from many programs, colleges and universities across the Midwest to complete a clinical rotation in the Therapy Services Department.
Meagan Weber, DPT, Therapy Services Supervisor said, “We have contracts with University of Missouri, Rockhurst University, Des Moines University, Indian Hills Community College, Linn State Tech, Moberly Area Community College, Maryville University, and Central Methodist University. The clinical rotation is a 6 – 11 week program, depending on where the student is in school. It is unpaid and the student has to find their own housing, but we have some great families in the community that enjoy hosting the students. We have been very blessed by our community and allowing our students to have a very good and positive experience in rural America. Nine times out of ten, the student tells us this has been their best and most fun rotation location. Students always talk about how great our team works together compared to other places they have been. I’m very proud of that fact!”
Gavin Hamilton- Davis, a Rockhurst University therapy student, said, “It’s more friendly and everyone is willing to help around here, compared to my first rotation in Independence. From a patient standpoint, I think the patients are different than from my other rotations. These patients are used to working hard all the time, their whole life. These patients have a lot more injuries related to being hard workers.” Gavin selected this clinical rotation location because his grandparents live here. He is the grandson of Rhonda and Billy Davis and the great grandson of June Kice. Patients in the Therapy Services Department have the option to have a student work with them and often the patient enjoys contributing to the student’s knowledge base. Weber said, “Hosting students is always a plus. It enables us, as a department, to stay current on the latest research and utilize best-in-practice treatment techniques.”
A comparable opportunity for some healthcare professions students is an internship experience. That is the case for Registered Dietitians (RD). ACEND (Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics) requires RD students to gain at least 1200 hours of supervised pre-professional experience as the last step before being eligible to take the registration examination for dietitians. Andrea Graham, RD, LD, Dietary Services Manager at Scotland County Hospital is a credentialed Dietetic Internship Preceptor and thoroughly enjoys managing RD interns. She recently supervised a student from the University of Idaho fulfilling a 320 hour internship. The RDN student, Lynnette Gannon, worked for Scotland County Hospital, forty hours a week for eight weeks during her unpaid internship. Lynnette, who lives in Kirksville and commuted to Memphis every day said, “RD internships are hard to find and fiercely competitive. I was excited to find Andrea and Scotland County Hospital. Andrea let me work on projects and even prepare and teach an in-service workshop to the dietary department. That kind of real-life experience is beyond valuable.”
Sadly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical training opportunities were shut down by many of the colleges and universities and across the spectrum of health profession students. Southeastern Community College in Keokuk, IA, did not shut down their nursing school clinical rotations. Nursing students drove into Memphis one day a week and worked 8-12 hour shifts at the Hospital. Olivia Steele, RN, Medical-Surgical Floor Supervisor said, “On-line clinical rotations just don’t compare to hands-on, face-to-face patient care. You have to experience hands on patient care to truly understand how to handle patient/ nurse interactions. We provide that to the nursing students that do clinical rotations here. The neat thing about clinical rotations with us is that the nursing students get so many different specialty experiences because we’re a small hospital. They may start their shift on the med-surg floor and end their shift in OB because a mother got sent over from the clinic for observation that afternoon. Or they may start their shift in the ER and once it settles down, they move to the med-surg floor. Every day is different and every experience is a learning opportunity when you’re a nursing student.”
Becky Johnson, RN, BSN, Clinical Instructor with Southeastern Community College (SCC) oversees the SCC nursing students during clinical rotations at Scotland County Hospital. She said, “Nursing school is harder than the years these students will spend as practicing nurses. Transitioning the students from nursing school to that of a licensed nurse is made easier through experience. This experience is gained through practice at clinical sites. Scotland County Hospital has been a great clinical site for our students because the environment is friendly, the staff is willing to teach the students, and the opportunity for a wide range of experiences is vast. The students are offered experience on the medical/surgical floor through direct patient care. They learn to communicate individually with the patient, perform a head-to-toe assessment, practice skills learned in lab, document all their findings, and administer medications all with the guidance of an instructor. They may also gain experience through observation in surgery, obstetrics, and the emergency department. It is amazing to me to see how the students grow over the course of a year. They gain confidence and knowledge that they will take with them into the nursing field. Florence Nightingale once said, “The more experience we gain, the more progress we can make.’”
Clinical rotations and internships serve as a way for students, in all healthcare professions, to learn more and get exposure to different specialties in healthcare. Professors and instructors from the technical schools to the universities, in all of these health professions, are looking for safe, accurate and thorough training for students. Does the student know when and how to get help? Can they perform an assessment on the patient? Have they learned to outline a plan of care specific for each patient? Are they able to set goals for their patients? Can they manage their time, chart accurately and embrace opportunities to practice their skills? These skills can really only be taught in a hands-on, face-to-face environment, under the supervision of a qualified mentor/ preceptor. All of these experiences teach diverse concepts in each chosen healthcare profession. Having a variety of clinical experiences can be helpful for learners who haven’t decided on an exact path in their specific occupation and can improve clinical reasoning and compassionate care.
The staff from Scotland County Hospital and the Rural Health Clinics are always eager to host students. Dr. Randy Tobler, Chief Executive Officer said, “Students bring a spark into our facility. Their interests and knowledge, plus their youth and eagerness to learn, are inspiring. They give all of us renewed energy and inspiration to share our profession.”