Polk State Nursing’s Fireside Chat Committee keeps students engaged

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Students in Polk State College’s Nursing Program advocate in the best interest of their peers and have been able to implement some positive changes, big and small, thanks to the support of faculty and staff.

From acquiring lotion for the Lakeland Campus Nursing Lab to prevent students’ hands from getting dry from washing, to designing the layout for the program’s Canvas site to make it user-friendly, students, faculty, and staff have continued to enhance Polk State Nursing and the student experience through monthly fireside chats facilitated by the Fireside Chat Committee.

“Some of these changes may seem small, but they are huge to us and it is great what we have been able to accomplish by working together,” Nursing I student Elizabeth Bernhauser said. “By having an open dialogue each month, we are able to bring student concerns forward and figure out solutions with our faculty.”

Dr. Annette Hutcherson, Director of Polk State Nursing, explained that the purpose of the Fireside Chat Committee is to provide an open forum where students may share concerns and suggest improvements to program policies, resources, and curriculum. Each course in the Associate in Science in Nursing Program selects at least one Fireside Chat Committee student representative.

Students and faculty meet the first Friday of each month for fireside chats to discuss topics ranging from possible classroom enhancements, to support and resources students need as they begin to practice the nursing career. The student representatives solicit comments from the class, communicate those with the committee, and bring input from the committee back to class.

“In some cases, the representatives from several of the nursing classes have common concerns, such as the need for emotional support resources as well as the availability of study rooms,” Dr. Hutcherson said. “The concerns are discussed at the meetings, where students and faculty work together to address student needs.”

In February, for example, students discussed mental health and how to deal with stressors in the workplace.

“Working in healthcare, we see things that other people don’t often experience – things that could cause post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues,” explained Patricia Kinsey, who received her Associate in Science in Nursing in May. “If you don’t talk about it, your stress can become worse. Fireside chats allow us to share in productive dialogue about situations we are all going through, such as working a code or losing our first patient.”

In addition to the fireside chats serving as an opportunity for students to share their experiences, students also benefit from the expertise of faculty and staff who can hear their concerns and refer them to services and resources available to them at the College.

Through the BayCare Student Assistance Program, for example, students may receive immediate assistance with issues relating to loss, coping, stress management, and more.

“Our fireside chats are a safe place for us – it’s a no-judgment zone where we can participate in an open dialogue about what we are going through together,” said Jessica Ortiz, who received her Associate in Science in Nursing in May. “Faculty have been really receptive to our concerns and you can tell they truly care about us.”