When returning to campus, the semester greets us like an old friend: familiar crowded lecture halls, bouquets of sharpened pencils, the sound a new textbook makes when you first crack it open, that first pumpkin spiced latte we sip while studying for exams. For nursing students, it’s not just about acing that next paper. It’s about preparing to transfer skills from the classroom to the bedside.

Behind the scenes of these semester routines, Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) faculty members are investigating new and innovative ways of shaping the education of future nurses. They’re asking questions like:

  • What kind of classroom environment is most conducive to student learning?
  • How can nursing educators incorporate LGBTQ care and sensitivity into nursing curriculum?
  • How can faculty assist students in learning to provide civil and compassionate care for the homeless?


image of nursing students studying in a classroom

Sage, not stage: What happens if we flip the classroom?

Patricia Pence transformed her nursing classes from lecture-based to flipped learning in 2013. Since then, she has been developing flipped learning strategies. In her newest project, she asks, “What types of active learning strategies keep students engaged in a flipped learning classroom?”

Pence asks, “Will flipped learning pedagogy influence academic motivation and learning strategies?”

In a flipped classroom, traditional lecture moves from the group to the individual, allowing students to learn at their own pace. For example, Pence might post a lecture online for students to review before class. Then, the class period would focus on interactive group exercises, such as case studies or peer instruction.

“Students learn with each other,” Pence said. “And the most important benefit is that the educator has time in class to develop relationships with students. You learn about each students’ needs and clarify misunderstandings before the tests.”

This spring, Pence will be looking at academic motivation and learning strategies in a flipped undergraduate BSN pathophysiology/pharmacology course. She wants to know what motivates undergraduate nursing students and what types of learning strategies are used to be successful in a nursing course. Pence asks, “Will flipped learning pedagogy influence academic motivation and learning strategies?”

image of a nursing student taking notes in a classroom

LGBTQ culturally competent care and curriculum inclusion in nursing programs

LGBTQ people frequently experience discrimination in health care settings, which limits their access to adequate medical assistance. Valentina Fillman identified a key gap in nursing education that contributes to this systemic issue: there is no inclusion of LGBTQ culturally competent care in undergraduate nursing curriculum.

Fillman insists that LGBTQ curriculum needs to be integrated everywhere, not just in one class.

In order to better prepare nursing students to provide care for LGBTQ patients, Fillman insists that LGBTQ curriculum needs to be integrated everywhere, not just in one class. In particular, nursing curriculum needs to include instruction in the appropriate terminology and language as well as information regarding the legal and policy concerns that LGBTQ patients may have.

Fillman is in the process of building a toolkit for nurse educators to guide inclusion of accurate LGBTQ material into undergraduate nursing courses. She hopes the toolkit will provide much-needed resources for nursing faculty while also increasing “positive perceptions of integrating LGBTQ-specific content into undergraduate nursing curriculum.”


image of a man's hands

Homelessness and civility: How do we break down barriers to care?

Sheryl Jenkins, Wendy Woith, Cynthia Kerber, and Kim Schafer Astroth know that homelessness and access to health care have long been linked. Inadequate access to health care can lead to untreated and under-treated acute and chronic physical and mental conditions which further complicate the lives of people who are homeless.

Photovoice can be a useful tool for giving voice to populations that have been marginalized and silenced.

One particular hurdle lies in the relationship between people who are homeless and the nurses who treat them. These MCN faculty are working to break down this barrier by educating nursing students about the importance of empathy and civility when caring for homeless individuals and families. One particular strategy they are employing is a photovoice study, which involves putting cameras into the hands of individuals who are homeless, empowering them to tell their own stories and communicate the concerns of their community. Woith has used a photovoice study in her work with Russian health care workers in tuberculosis hospitals, to great success:

“It’s a useful tool for giving voice to populations that have been marginalized and silenced,” Woith said.

Jenkins, Woith, Kerber, and Astroth are currently in the data collection stage of this research. They look forward to learning more about how photovoice can help nursing students better connect and serve people who are living homeless.


A sneak peek of what’s on the horizon for Research Rising:

  • Susan Hovey is researching grieving processes for caregivers of persons with dementia. What interventions can we implement to support these caregivers?
  • Cherrill Stockmann asks, how can simulation can be used for assessing mental health status?
  • Cynthia Kerber is investigating the relationship between telemedicine and mental health.


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