Cooley Dickinson Staff Serve as Nursing Instructors

NORTHAMPTON — Eight Cooley Dickinson Hospital employees, including five staff nurses, serve as instructors for two of the three clinical groups of nursing students training this semester in the Cooley Dickinson Hospital Dedicated Education Unit (DEU).
“This makes the DEU a learning laboratory in which everyone — nursing students, preceptors, and instructors — is growing,” said Ann LeBrun, registered nurse and DEU coordinator. “It’s pretty unusual as it is for a community hospital to have a Dedicated Education Unit, so having staff recruited as clinical instructors for on-the-job student nurse teaching is extra-special.”
Staff nurses serving as instructors are Celene Boyce, Jennifer Crocker, Rose Ferrari, and Laura James, all of Critical Care, and Jennifer Kosakowski of Telemetry. Ann LeBrun and Cynthia Baecher, Critical Care and Telemetry clinical nurse specialists, and Charleen Diggins, Professional Development specialist, are also instructors.
The instructors say the role is rewarding and improves their abilities as nurses. “I enjoy watching students grow and develop,” LeBrun said.
Ferrari observed that being an instructor improves her skills because “it has challenged me to remember why we do what we are doing. It has forced me to be more knowledgeable and current with changing practices.”
Baecher has had a similar experience. “Being an instructor forces you to preach best practice in nursing over and over again,” she said. “When you know best practice inside and out, it translates into excellent patient care.”
Diggins noted that students develop best “in an environment that is friendly and open to learning.” She said patients help with the education, too. “Patients are very open and want students to learn. They are willing to give helpful information.”
DEU students work 12-hour shifts regularly along with Cooley Dickinson nurses, who serve as preceptors. The clinical instructors work with eight students at a time and grade their performance. The DEU students’ experience is much more intense than usual rotations in hospitals for nursing students, so the students graduate much more prepared to manage patients.
“Becoming a clinical instructor felt like a natural transition and has been extremely fulfilling,” Ferrari said. “Teaching nurses or future nurses felt like an amazing way to give back to the profession that I love.”
Boyce serves as an instructor for American International College, Diggins and James for Elms College, and Kosakowski for Greenfield Community College. Baecher, Crocker, Ferrari, and Lebrun represent the UMass School of Nursing.
Baecher said teaching gives her an ‘a-ha’ moment every day. “When I come into work and see the students from the DEU who are now Cooley staff on Telemetry and ICU, I think, ‘they are excellent clinicians, and I am so proud of them.’”

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