I recently had the honor and opportunity to teach 25 or so nurse practitioner students in their final semester of graduate school in a 4-hour lecture and hands-on skills workshop. This was both a trip down memory lane (was I really in their seats just a short 10 years ago?) and also a call to action: I had fewer hours devoted to hands-on skills than I wanted in NP school, and this was an opportunity to help others feel more prepared.
The initial thought of this task sounded exciting, but as I sat down to mentally prepare, it was a little daunting. FOUR hours of content? Just me teaching? What supplies do I really need? How will we accomplish such a feat? If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are 5 easy steps to prepare yourself to teach hands-on skills to NP students.
1. List of topics requested + the objectives for topics to be learned= your lecture, in a nutshell.
Remember that one lecture in school that was all over the place, and you felt so lost? Organize your thoughts about what you’re teaching to avoid replicating that kind of mistake. What is it you actually need to accomplish with your lecture? Which concepts and skills do you need to communicate with clarity? Make sure your actual prepared content lines up with your objectives as well as the list of topics requested, so that the organization requesting your expertise gets a quality product and the students learning from you have a clear picture of what they need to know for practice.
2. Put down your initial thoughts about content, pulling from your expertise and clinical experience. Do your research for any changes or updates in evidence-based practice.
Students need to know the correct way to perform a skill, and you should teach them this. However, they also want to know the “hack” to performing said skill with better precision, or in the event they don’t have everything they need, or if the supplies they receive on the job are different than what they’re used to.
3. Obtain all your needed supplies for hands-on skills.
First, you’ll need to know exactly what skills you hope to teach. Teaching short-arm casting? Will you use plaster or fiberglass? How will you get the cast off? Do you need a cast saw? Cast shears? Don’t forget to bring gloves! Secondly, how many students will you have in your class? Confirm this number with the school prior to ordering supplies- you’ll want to have enough on hand for each student to participate, including an extra here and there so you have enough for instructors, including yourself, and perhaps an additional student or two. If you make a list of the skills, then know exactly what you need for each skill, and multiply times the number of students, you should have everything you need. Thirdly, don’t forget to do your research. Researching and comparing pricing can help save you and your students on the price tag. Look at different vendors for your list of needed items. Could you get them donated from your place of employment? Does anyone have expired resources that would otherwise get thrown away? Is it available on eBay? Amazon? Or is this something you will need to purchase from a medical supply store?
4. Put your content together in an easy-to-understand format.
Nobody likes to read a PowerPoint written in size 12 font. Make sure the content will be easily read, both on the projector screen in a large room, as well as when your presentation is printed out and taken home. Students may want to reference this content later: make sure they know the steps they will need to take to replicate these skills at a later date. Include pictures and video- seeing a skill demonstrated often helps cement it in our minds. See one, do one, teach one, right? If they’ve never seen it done, it will be difficult to replicate when they are trying a new skill. If the group of students and the room is small enough, consider demonstrating each skill yourself, so that you are able to slow down, stop, repeat steps, and answer questions along the way. For a larger group or room, especially with social distancing, consider showing a video or a step-by-step picture to help each student visualize the skill they will be performing.
5. Make it interesting! Share case studies, examples, stories that will help cement the content and offer application in real-world scenarios. Include all the pearls you learned that will be helpful to students.
As nearly every adult learner finds, it is much easier to learn a concept when it is applied to a real-life scenario. Hearing the history of present illness or the patient’s past medical or surgical history can help them remember and categorize their learning into a general group of diagnoses, injuries, or scenarios the skill may be applied. Did you forget all your supplies the first time you used this skill in real practice? Tell the students your story- it may both break the tension and help them remember in the future!
Teaching a group of novice students a new skill can be daunting for a few reasons. You’ll need to know what’s expected of both you (as instructor) and the students. You’ll have to ensure that you or someone can obtain the necessary supplies. Perhaps the most important step: you’ll want to communicate the content with clarity. If you follow these five easy steps, no doubt your group of NP students will learn their hands-on skill with ease!