It’s All About Experience: 5 Tips for Engaging Today’s Students in Elder Care from a Seasoned Nursing Educator

by Emily Kuhn, Communications Specialist for Realityworks, Inc.

It’s been 25 years since Bobby Scanlon began teaching geriatrics, and to say that a lot has changed is an understatement. Twenty-first century learning aids and technology have transformed what today’s students expect to experience in a classroom. Tech-savvy and not afraid to question what they’re hearing or seeing, today’s students love to learn, but they aren’t afraid to ask “why.” What’s more, they crave hands-on, real-world learning opportunities.

For some educators, the idea of embracing new technology and teaching styles to provide such opportunities can be daunting. However, if there’s anything Scanlon has learned in almost three decades of teaching, it’s that adaptation is not only vital to be an effective 21st century educator, but it can truly help transform your students’ education — and help them be that much more successful in their careers.

“One of my goals by the end of each class is to pass on my passion for working with the elderly to my students,” said Scanlon, who is a nurse educator with Dove Healthcare in West Central Wisconsin. “If I’m able to get even three students from a class of 10 to stay in long-term care, then that’s three more people who can touch the lives of the elderly. So I’m always looking for new ways to present a topic to my students and get them excited about learning.”

True to her word, Scanlon regularly incorporates new ideas and teaching methods into the CNA, CBRF, and CPR courses she teaches for Dove, but there are a few strategies she now consistently uses to ensure her students are presented with a variety of learning opportunities – and that there is a balance. Here are 5 tips Scanlon recommends for engaging today’s health science students in elder care

1. Find out what works.

For years, Scanlon used in-class cues like body language and eye contact, plus her own experience, to decipher students’ learning styles as she taught them. One day, it occurred to her to simply ask – before she began teaching them. Now, Scanlon welcomes each new class of students with a questionnaire about their learning styles.

“I ask them, ‘Are you a visual learner? Do you prefer to be shown and then left to your own devices?’” said Scanlon. “Their answers help me learn about them before we ever start clinicals so I can try to align their needs to what I need to share with them.”

2. Create an atmosphere of familiarity.

As Scanlon recalls, this tip was born of frustration. After teaching one of her first big classes, she noticed that by the end, her students still didn’t know their peers’ names.

“In healthcare, teamwork is so, so important – you need to be able to depend on your coworkers,” said Scanlon. “But you can’t do that if you don’t know who is sitting right next to you.”

Scanlon now starts each class with a networking activity, where students pair up to ask each other specific, personal questions. As a result, her students are more engaged – with the class, and with each other.

“When students pair up to practice skills, they have a greater sense of comfort with each other and can interact a little better,” said Scanlon. “They’re not afraid to ask questions and discuss what’s happening – and learn.

3. Be flexible.

According to Scanlon, flexibility is key. Based on the behavior of her students and the topic being discussed at the time, Scanlon will incorporate a new lesson or review previously covered material so her students have a chance to get up and practice skills on each other or watch a video, even if she wasn’t planning to address that topic at the time.

“When I teach, I seek out one or two people to make good eye contact with and get some reassurance that I’m headed in the right direction, and it’s clear when they’re feeling less enthusiastic about what you’re saying at the moment. Even something as simple as stopping and having students practice backrubs on each other when you’re discussing that skill is enough to re-engage them and get them excited.”

4.  Don’t be afraid to try new teaching tools.

Scanlon has always sought to teach her students empathy and compassion toward the elderly. She regularly emphasizes the interactions her students have with residents during clinicals and encourages them to observe and consider why residents behaved in certain ways. However, those skills can be difficult to teach without giving students the chance to experience for themselves what their patients are going through. When Scanlon discovered Realityworks’ RealCare Geriatric Simulator, an interactive age simulation suit, she didn’t hesitate to try it in her classroom – and saw immediate results.

“Change can be hard, but when I see something and it excites me, then I’m going to try to incorporate it in class as soon as possible,” said Scanlon. “With this simulator, students don’t need to wait until they get to the floor to see what’s happening with the residents – they can feel and experience it for themselves. And what’s more, it brings excitement into the classroom.”

5. Keep it real.

When she first began conducting evaluations for Wisconsin nurse aid candidate exams, Scanlon was surprised to encounter students who had never practiced basic skills on real people, like putting compression stockings on or brushing teeth. Scanlon recommends using interactive activities as often as possible. Not only does this grab students’ attention and keep them engaged, but it helps them develop valuable soft skills.

“Practicing skills on one another is not only hands-on, but personal – it helps students get used to each other and not be afraid of touch,” said Scanlon. “More importantly, it gives you the perspective of the residents you’ll be helping… and if you can put yourself in a resident’s place, you are going to be much more compassionate and empathetic.”

Eleven of the top 20 fastest-growing occupations nationwide are in health care. As demand for nursing and geriatric care skills increases, so will the importance of using teaching tools and resources that truly engage new generations of healthcare students. To anyone considering a new method of teaching, Scanlon has this to say:

“Whatever you do is going to be valuable to them – it’s going to give them experiences and open up their eyes.”

Educating Students and Teachers on Mental Health Using Fully Developed FREE Resources!

On April 24, the School Mental Health Curriculum Guide was highlighted on NBC Nightly News. The report included an interview Deb and Willie Binion who passionately shared their goal to give hope to families across the country after losing their son, Jordan to suicide in 2010. The Binions created the Jordan Binion Project to provide resources to others about mental health — especially to high school students — and to work toward reducing the stigma surrounding related issues. The Nightly News report and full details can be found here.

At the 2018 NCHSE annual meeting, Marianna Goheen, Washington health science state leader informed attendees that Washington State became the first entity to formally implement the Mental Health & High School Curriculum Resource in the United States. The USA-Washington edition of the curriculum resource is developed and in use. Trainers have prepared educators across the state to deliver this mental health education to youth in their communities.

Joanne Clovis, Idaho health science state leader (until her retirement on May 15), informed NCHSE that Idaho has applied for a grant to assist in educating health and health science teachers in their state on this public health crisis. Joanne is planning to deliver a session on this topic at the Idaho CTE Summer Conference in July. She can’t retire!

In addition, Lara Morris, OK health science state leader shared information about a FREE teacher curriculum. The curriculum discusses OCD, panic attacks, social anxiety disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia, and depression.  There are online modules for student curriculum as well. Great classroom resources for state leads and health science teachers to access.




Announcing the NCHSE Health Science Certificate Lab at the HOSA 2018 ILC

Through a partnership with Precision Exams and National Geographic Learning | Cengage, the National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) will be host the NCHSE Health Science Certificate Lab at the HOSA-Future Health Professionals 2018 International Leadership Conference (ILC) in June in Dallas, Texas. This free certificate lab will allow students opportunities to earn an industry-recognized certificates as they demonstrate their knowledge of specific skills validated by higher education, industry professionals, and employers.  The lab will be open Wednesday, June 27,  1:00 – 5:00 PM, Thursday , June 28, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and Friday, June 29,  8:00 AM – 2:00 PM at the Omni Hotel, Room: Deep Ellum A. We look forward to serving many HOSA members through this partnership venture! For more information.

Exciting Opportunity for All Students at HOSA 2018 ILC!

NCHSE is pleased to announce a first-time opportunity for all HOSA student members to participate at no cost in the NCHSE Health Science Certificate Lab.  Dare your students to take the challenge to gauge their health science knowledge in the following content areas!

  • Medical Terminology
  • Nutrition & Wellness
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Medical Anatomy & Physiology
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Exercise & Sports Medicine
  • Biotechnology
  • Dental Assisting
  • Food & Nutrition
  • & the National Health Science Assessment!

This free opportunity allows students a way to document their knowledge of valuable skills in these specific content areas that are validated by higher education, industry professionals and employers!  These assessments are not “right to work” credentialing certificates.

The NCHSE Health Science Certificate Lab is located in the Omni Hotel as part of the HOSA ILC Education Symposium offerings.           

Wednesday, June 27

1:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Lab

Thursday, June 28

8:00 AM – 4:00 PM: Lab

Friday, June 29

8:00 AM – 2:00 PM: Lab

Additional information can be found here. 


NCHSE Annual Meeting and Report

(Army Medicine Ed Tour 31 January 18–U.S. Army Recruiting Command education services specialists helped visiting educators discover Army Medicine at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.)

We were pleased to host the 2018 NCHSE Annual Meeting in San Antonio January 31-February 1.  The meeting included a very informative trip to Fort Sam Houston to see their medical programs.  Everyone was impressed by the facilities and equipment, but most of all by our interaction with the professional men and women.  At the Health Science State Leaders Meeting, there was an engaging speaker on forensics from the Body Farm and informative presentations by the NCHSE Publishers/Resources Coalition. Always great networking and still time to complete committee meetings and NCHSE business.

An important part of the meeting was a NCHSE restructuring discussion.  The board voted to approve the organizational restructure to include more health industry associations and to allow more input from group of members.  We all will miss Carole Stacey who is retiring as the NCHSE Executive Director, effective March 2018.  Carole has worked tirelessly for NCHSE for many years and exhibited a true passion for this organization. Please enjoy the NCHSE 2017 Annual Report

Strengthening and growing our organization will take commitment from everyone working together to ensure NCHSE continues to be the premier organization for health science education.  Each of you including classroom teachers bring certain strengths and areas of expertise.  Contribute your ideas to expand the NCHSE footprint. Stay tuned for a BIG announcement this year about the launch of the Health Science Educators Association.  

Start planning now to attend the 2018 National Health Science Conference, September 26-28, Denver, Colorado.  Two pre-conference sessions are planned for September 25: Clay & Cadaver and The Power of Simulation: Where Do I Start? There will be opportunities for to provide breakout sessions, exhibit, sponsor conference items, and much more. All conference details will be posted at:

As we continue to grow relationships, the hope is more health science teachers, health science state leaders, health-related associations and organizations will also see how their participation with NCHSE can impact health science education, benefit the development of the health industry pipeline and also, provide support for their agencies, associations or healthcare business.

We encourage everyone to like the NCHSE Facebook page.  Often classroom ideas, current trends or health science education resources are posted on the page. Please do not hesitate to contact Nancy Allen, NCHSE Interim Executive Director  if you have suggestions, ideas or questions.

Below are some pictures of our tour of the Army Medicine at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston

NCHSE Health Science Assessments Update

As the spring semester gets underway, this update serves as a reminder to register early for this year’s assessments.  Information from registering for the exam to accessing helpful resources to prepare for the assessment is just a click away from your fingertips!

The NCHSE assessment webpage link is:   This page includes the National Health Sciences assessment resources along with a 25-question sample test, test content outline, a direct link to Precision Exams and much more.

The National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) is proud to announce the addition of 15 content specific stackable certificate exams that lead to the end of program National Health Science Assessment.  The purpose of the health science assessments is to measure student knowledge and to inform classroom instruction.  By offering more health science assessment choices, programs can choose the appropriate assessment that meets the needs and intricacies of their health science education programs for greater assessment information and performance.  Because there is such a variance to what defines a health science program (length of program; program completion; number of National Health Science Standards covered; etc.) the National Health Science Assessment was not always appropriately representative of student competency.  Health science teachers will continue to be supported with National Health Science Standards based data specific to their programs to which they can use to adjust their curriculum.  The assessments in addition to the National Health Science Assessment are as follows:

  • Biotechnology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Forensics
  • Health Sciences, Introduction
  • Medical Anatomy & Physiology
  • Nutrition & Wellness
  • Dental Assisting I, II and III
  • Food & Nutrition I and II
  • Medical Assistant – Medical Terminology
  • Medical Assistant – Clinical and Laboratory Procedures
  • Medical Assisting – Medical Office Management
  • Medical Assisting – Anatomy and Physiology

As updates on the assessment occur, information will be posted on the NCHSE website assessment link throughout the year.  NCHSE’s goal is to provide useful tools for the health science teacher to ensure health science programs thrive and grow.

Here’s to happy testing!  (NCHSE Health Science Assessment options can be chosen independently or included with a site license option and are financially very cost effective.)

For more information, contact Cindy Le Coq, NCHSE Past Chair:

Institute of Education Excellence Recap

The Institute of Education Excellence was held in Omaha, Nebraska, October 17 through October 20. Hosting 45 health science educators from 22 states, including Alaska attendees participated in 3 days of experiential learning experiences.

Sessions included:

  • Learning Games to Increase Student Engagement
  • Behavioral Health incorporated in a health science curriculum
  • Teaching Pathology in The Health Science. The teachers were in class with students from the Nebraska Health Academy. The lesson was on skin integrity and everyone learned how to suture a banana. 
  • Activities in a Pinch 2.0
  • Recruitment and talent acquisition in the health care industry 
  • Enhancing the patient experience
  • How we pay for healthcare services

IEE participants visited the University of Nebraska Medical Complex. we toured and talked to the staff who worked in  the bio containment unit where the Ebola patients were treated during the international outbreak. The iExcel Simulation Technology Center was a mind expanding experience. Using virtual reality we were able to travel inside various body system. The visit ended in the Dale Chihuly Healing Garden in the brand new Buffett Cancer Center.

While the days were long and intense there was time in the evenings to explore Omaha’s Old Market area, walk across the bridge to Iowa and visit the Lewis and Clark museum.

Participants left renewed, filled with energy and enough teaching tips to take them through to June!

Click here to download PowerPoint of the event. 

Special thank you to our sponsors!



AES Education

HOSA-Future Health Professionals

Nebraska Career Education

Nebraska Department of Education

Nebraska Corn Board

Nebraska Department of Economic Development

CHI Health

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Nebraska Medicine

University of Nebraska Medical Center – High School Alliance

Metropolitan Community College – Omaha Campus

Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN)

Dr. Geoffery Talman, MD

Fusion Medical Staffing

Terri Donahue – Nebraska Career Education

Nebraska Health Science Teachers

Webinar Recap: Innovative Work-Based Learning in Healthcare Webinar

Thanks to all who joined us for the webinar, “Innovative Work-Based Learning in Healthcare.” And, a huge thank you to our wonderful partners, Montana State University and Renee Erlandsen, Health Science Education Specialist, MT Office of Public Instruction, for hosting the event!

As clinical placements become more limited, building meaningful relationships with stakeholders to create innovative work-based learning opportunities for students becomes imperative.

During the webinar, we answered some great questions and discussed different ways industry and educators can work together to help students explore career pathways. Presenters gave great advice about how you can:

  • Establish a relationship with your local healthcare facility.
  • Prepare students for the experience.
  • Build valuable apprenticeships.

We also shared insider tips about the behind-the-scenes preparation needed for a successful program and cool insights from the school district perspective.

If you missed the event, you can find the full webinar here; or for a quick look at the  topics covered, you can find the slides here.

HOSA Report

If you missed us at the 2017 HOSA International Leadership Conference, below is a quick recap of the breakout sessions given by NCHSE and the scholarships awarded by the Consortium.

2017 National Consortium of Health Science Education $1,000 Scholarship Recipients

During the 2017 HOSA International Leadership Conference, NCHSE was excited to award five $1000 HOSA Scholarships to some incredible students. Congratulations to our 2017 scholarship recipients!

Alyssa Polizzi, (MI)
Career Goal: Veterinarian
School: Adlai Stevenson High School
Advisor: Susan Rawling
Cathy Nguyen, (TX)
Career Goal: General Practitioner
School: McNeil High School
Advisor: Shirley Shofner
Rachna Patel, (GA)
Career Goal: Dentist
School: Chattahoochee High School
Advisor: Tangela McCorkle
Sonja Moore, (WA)
Career Goal: Medical and Public Health Social Worker
School: Newport High School
Advisor: Saraya Pierce
Priyanka Rao, (SC)
Career Goal: Surgeon
School: Spring Valley High School
Advisor: Lorie McDuffie

Building, Retaining and Sustaining Clinical and Community Partnerships

Over 50 HOSA advisers participated in discussions about getting to know their community partners and cultivating working relationships. In an effort to build and retain clinical sites and develop sustainable community partnerships in support of their health science education programs, participants exchanged ideas of how to show community partners appreciation and how to “think out of the box”.  To give students a chance to explore careers in participants discussed expanding their ideas about who might be a partner in their communities. Suggestions included grocery stores, insurance agencies and construction companies. Participants were introduced to the new NCHSE resource Partnerships: School, Community Health Care.
For additional information, you may access a copy of the presentation here.

Look Beneath the Surface for Human Trafficking

An FBI Special Agent and a nurse  provided the medical perspective of trafficking victims and the legal scope of the problem. Human trafficking is a global problem and is prevalent in the United States.  Participants were given the facts and strategies for asking the right questions will to help determine if someone is a victim who needs their help. References and resources were distributed to learn more about this growing problem. How individuals and local HOSA chapters could help was part of the discussion. Providing backpacks to local ER’s and police departments with items a trafficking victim might need (underwear, hygiene and grooming products ) was one of many suggestions.
For additional information, you may access a copy of the presentation here.

Refresh and Recharge: Promoting Student Active Engagement

Lara Morris presented to fifty state advisors and instructors the features of the Health Science Enhancements.  This updated resource, taking the place of the Health Science Curriculum Supplements, was being sold at the bargain price of $250 for anyone purchasing at HOSA!  The improved content outlines, new web links and refreshed activities were well-received by attendees.

There is still time to review the flash drive and incorporate the activities into your 2017-2018 lesson plans or as part of a substitute toolkit.  It’s especially helpful for those areas that are a challenge to teach, like Health Care Systems, Health Maintenance Practices and Information Technology Applications.  Visit our online store at to see what the buzz is about.

NCHSE Expands Certification Options with Precision Exams as their Exam Delivery Partner

Michigan; June 13, 2017 – National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) today announced a partnership with Precision Exams for the company to serve as the primary exam management partner for the Consortium’s career and technical education exams. In this role, Precision Exams is responsible for collaborating with NCHSE to build, maintain and promote relevant assessments aligned to the National Health Science Standards and to create reports that will support health science state leaders and teachers in making better decisions about curriculum and classroom instruction. Precision Exams will oversee the administration and data. With this support, teachers will have access to information they may use to adjust their curriculum based on performance of their students.

The Precision Exams partnership reflects a strategic effort to provides a strong foundation to reach a broader audience of health science students and teachers, while opening the door for greater and more direct industry and post-secondary engagement. NCHSE and its committees focus on thought leadership, educational standards and outcomes, and providing direction on best practices and policies across the nation.

Carole Stacy, NCHSE Executive Director, said, “As the leader in the health science pathway the number of educational options continue to grow rapidly, so does the pressure on the teachers to prepare students for a future as a health professional. The end goal of NCHSE is to open opportunities for careers by providing simple pathways to certification. However, that is no easy task in the complex healthcare environment. We are excited about partnering with Precision Exams to transform the way the next generation prepares for their careers and to help ensure they are able to succeed in those careers.”

Based in Utah, Precision Exams is a recognized technology and operational leader in the career and technical education exam development and delivery industry. Offering over 170 focused exams across all 16 career clusters, they have the largest repository of industry recognized certifications offered to high school students nationwide.

“We are thrilled to become more involved with NCHSE to help teachers offer a wider range of certifications to their students. These additional exams that NCHSE is offering will open healthcare certification opportunities for all students and not just a select few,” said Edson Barton, CEO, at Precision Exams. “The combination of strategic vision, experience and industry involvement from NCHSE will help many healthcare teachers transform the way they help prepare students for their healthcare careers.”

Together, NCHSE and Precision Exams will focus on designating clear and consistent standards for health science teachers and students; meeting the needs of all health science education programs by offering greater flexibility for students to engage at the course level; and expanding the essential knowledge across health professions to prepare and increase the number of students that are college and career ready. As organizations dedicated to delivering next-generation health science education products and resources, NCHSE and Precision Exams work to deliver industry-leading stackable pathway solutions.


The National Consortium for Health Science Education is a partnership of state education agency leaders, organizations, and publishers and resource providers with a vested interest in health science education. NCHSE was organized in 1991 to stimulate creative and innovative leadership for ensuring a well-prepared healthcare workforce. Driven by high cost, rapid technological changes, increased demand for health services, and dramatic employment growth in the health community, the Consortium is positioned as the educational leader impacting on health science education programs nationwide that prepare future health professionals.

The NCHSE organizational structure and support systems are designed to collaboratively define and advance the framework of health science education. This effective collaborative is responsive to the needs of health science education and the healthcare industry and has active communications to connect with all stakeholders affecting and contributing to health science education. NCHSE’s significant leadership role is shaping the future of a high quality healthcare workforce.


Precision Exams is built on the belief that the future of America depends on the next generation’s ability to create. In today’s hyper-competitive markets, we need makers, doers, artists, and craftsmen to solve the problems of tomorrow. With over 4,000,000 assessments delivered across the country, Precision Exams provide comprehensive solutions with a client-focused approach to test development and delivery, stockholder reporting, and psychometric analysis. With schools and districts using their exams in nearly every state in America, Precision drives innovation to improve the way the next generation works and lives.

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