A Q&A with Marcia Buchs, Sandra Scheidenhelm, Jessica Sullivan, Teresa Novy and Seon Yoon Chung

In these uncertain times, we at Illinois State University’s Mennonite College of Nursing think transparency is even more important than ever. Below, we sit down with a few of MCN’s leaders to get a feel for what spring ‘21 will look like at MCN. 

How will this semester be different than normal?

“In MCN’s Nursing Simulation Lab, we will continue to practice physical distancing during labs and sims, and the wearing of masks and goggles will continue to be the norm. When students can’t attend in person, faculty will use technology when possible to bring them into the lab or sim hospital.” — Marcia Buchs, director, Nursing Simulation Lab

“This spring, there is potential for clinical hours in the Leadership and Management and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to be remote, online, etc. Like last year, our DNP Intensive may be via Zoom again this year.” — Sandra Scheidenhelm, DNP sequence leader

Door monitor at MCN’s Nursing Simulation Lab.

“Online theory. While our undergraduate prelicensure program is not normally online, didactic (theory) classes will continue to be provided online as we navigate the pandemic. I want to stress: at MCN, we are known to provide high quality online education. Our online theory courses in the undergraduate program are active and synchronous (real time).” — Dr. Seon Yoon Chung, associate dean for academics

“While online, MCN has gotten their groove. This semester will be cold and gloomy some days, but it is refreshing to teach and do what I love. The continuous use of PPE during clinical practice will continue and has an impact on the delivery of patient care. It is more challenging, can be slightly physically painful to the face and breathing, but doable! COVID-19 vaccinations give us hope to move forward and hope for a better future.” — Dr. Teresa Novy, accelerated sequence leader

“The Family Nurse Practitioner courses continue to be 100 percent online and synchronous via Zoom for the spring 2021 semester.” — Dr. Jessica Sullivan, FNP sequence leader

How will it be the same?

“Since we started back in-person in the sim lab for health assessment, psychomotor skills and simulation in the fall, we have been able to continue in-person without interruption, enabling our students to have hands-on experience in all their labs and actually carry out their scenarios in person in the sim hospital.” — Buchs

“We continue to emphasize and offer safe and high-quality experiential learning opportunities for our students. Labs, sims, and clinicals are in-person with faculty. Hands-on experience is critical for our nursing students, and we are dedicated to making sure our students get this experience.” — Chung

“Our Family Nurse Practitioner students are all in face-to-face clinical seeing patients with preceptors this semester. While they are taking extra precautions, like wearing masks and eye protection, the students are excited to be able to interact with patients and contribute directly to their care.” — Sullivan

What should students be excited about?

“Just this week our students were able to get their first COVID-19 vaccine. This is a big step toward being able to gather in the sim lab safely for studying and socialization outside of class—which we haven’t been able to do since last March!” — Buchs

“We just launched a brand new BSN to DNP program—this is very exciting!” — Scheidenhelm

Accelerated Program Sequence Leader Dr. Teresa Novy

“At MCN, we are approaching the pandemic as a learning opportunity. Our students were given the opportunities to provide contact tracing and will be given the opportunity to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to the public. And even facing a global pandemic, our students achieved a 95-96 percent NCLEX pass rate for the year, significantly higher than state and national averages.” — Chung

“As faculty, we are taking this opportunity to improve our online teaching strategies and develop virtual simulation scenarios. I am excited about the scenarios we are developing for the FNP students—they’re going to be fun!” — Sullivan

What is your advice to nursing students this semester?

“While we know this past year has been challenging, our Redbird nurses have hung tough. Experiencing nursing education through a pandemic can only make you more resilient, flexible and confident that you can do what it takes to graduate and launch a successful and satisfying nursing career.” — Buchs

“Even with everything going on, know that at MCN, we are here for you. You CAN fit a graduate degree in nursing into your life. When you are ready, we would love to help you imagine how.” — Scheidenhelm

“Take advantage of a great opportunity to learn how to provide nursing through a pandemic. We are living in times when nurses are being given more respect and recognition for our work. It’s time for us to lead.” — Chung

“Keep your focus by knowing each semester is one step closer to a very wonderful career. You will be using your education from MCN to deliver excellent care through your new nursing knowledge, growing compassion and love for humanity. There will be bumps—know your resources, take time for yourself and study hard.” — Novy

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