Mission work essential for OC nursing students

Kay Elder, OC Nursing chair, and Rhea Ann Lee, RN to BSN coordinator. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma’s Nursing Times)
Kay Elder, OC Nursing chair, and Rhea Ann Lee, RN to BSN coordinator. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma’s Nursing Times)

By James Coburn, Courtesy of Oklahoma’s Nursing Times

As of June 1, the status of the Oklahoma Christian Department of Nursing has changed to the Oklahoma Christian University School of Nursing, said Kay Elder, RN, nursing school chair.

“There is some restructuring going on with Oklahoma Christian University, and nursing is now part of the newly formed College of Natural and Health Sciences, along with biology and history,” Elder said.

The summer campus appears a peaceful setting at OC. Eleven traditional transfer students remain on campus to finish their health assessment course work at the OC School of Nursing. They will be joining the junior class in the fall. In July, they will be learning the fundamentals of nursing. During June and July, they are studying pharmacology, Elder said.

“We’ve been doing a lot of recruitment fairs and admission events,” she said. “We’ve been very busy, as well as with the RN to BSN program. The first cohort is up and running and they are just finishing their first two classes with eight students.”

The second cohort of the RN to BSN will begin September 1, said Rhea Ann Lee, RN, program coordinator. They are hoping to have a cohort of around 15 students.

Additionally for the traditional nursing program, the OC School of Nursing has the largest group coming into our sophomore classes, Elder said. So far, there are 51 students, compared to the previous maximum of 41 students.

“We still have students changing majors or transferring into the university,” Elder said. “It looks like we may have 60 sophomore nursing students, which when we’re looking at labs, that’s 50 percent more labs than we’ve had before. We’re experiencing growth. It’s very exciting and it doesn’t feel like summer slowed down.”

In order to accommodate future growth for the OC School of Nursing, the university has kicked off a Thrive fundraising campaign for a new OC School of Nursing facility. Anticipations are for the fundraising program to be completed by 2017.

“Nursing is in the first tier, and they intend to gut and redo the north end of Heritage Plaza for nursing. We’ll have our labs, our classrooms, our offices in a dedicated area for nursing, which we really need,” Elder said. “We’ve outgrown our existing space.”

The school continues to invest in its students. Part of that criteria deals with mission work. Students take Health Care Missions and Christian Service in their junior year. In the first three weeks following graduation, the nursing students either go to Honduras for mission work or they will stay local to work with under-served populations, Elder said.

“They work in the hospitals in Honduras and help with the clinics up in the mountains,” Elder said. “They do health education through interpreters in the mountain village schools.”

They also spend a day in a children’s home dedicated to children living with disabilities. These children in Honduras have been shunned and abandoned by their families, Elder said. So they live in state-run orphanages.

“That’s something that always touches the students’ hearts,” Elder said. “There are many children in wheelchairs. There are some who are severely disabled and non verbal. But most of the times they give smiles, even if there are not other things they can do. The students tell us this is a very valuable part of their nursing curriculum.”

Many of the students returned for other medical missions. One of the students, who graduated from the 2010 class, went to Rwanda with Mercy Hospital, Elder said. This student was successful in providing improvements to the hospital’s best practices.

“We’re very excited about that. Students who do not choose to do missions in Honduras, stay local and work with under-served populations,” Elder said. “They work doing health care education with Headstart, which of course has income requirements. That’s a fun day when you’re dealing with 3- and 4-year olds, telling them about healthy eating and exercise, about hand washing and tooth brushing. They just really love it.”

The students also work with Luther Public Schools, where 85 percent of the students are provided lunch for free. The school district does not have a school nurse to help the children in Luther. So the students provide health screenings at the schools.
“We also work with individuals with disabilities in Make Promises Happen in Guthrie,” Elder said.

The Christian-oriented camp is for children living with disabilities through recreation. Nursing students are 24/7 with the campers. They learn about what resources the children’s parents and caregivers need. One consideration is how a caregiver would provide safety for these children. Motivation and burnout prevention for these caregiver is noted.

“That is an important part of our domestic missions,” Elder said.

They also work with Lighthouse Medical Clinic, which is associated with the Churches of Christ in downtown Oklahoma City.

“The whole purpose of our mission clinical is that they must work with under-served populations,” Elder said.