KOKOMO, Ind. — Ask Margaret Sposato to perform a head-to-toe screening on a mother who has just given birth, and, as a long-time labor and delivery nurse, she has the skill and confidence to do the job.
Suggest she teach a half dozen nursing students how to perform the same screening, and before this year, that might have seemed like a daunting challenge.
But this semester Sposato, a student in Indiana University Kokomo’s Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) program, learned at the side of a master instructor, co-teaching classes with Bridget Whitmore, clinical associate professor in the School of Nursing.
“There’s a transition from bedside nurse to teacher. You’re used to taking care of the patients yourself, and you have to adjust to letting the students take that role,” she said. “They’re nervous, and would be very happy to watch me do it for them. I had to learn how to provide encouragement to guide them in that way. I learned a lot about being a teacher.”
Her goal is to teach nursing at the college level, and her experience confirmed this career choice.
“I really enjoy empowering students to feel like they can succeed,” she said. “They can be great nurses. It felt good to realize I could help them be excited about a career in nursing, and the opportunities available to them in the profession.”
Sposato assisted Whitmore in supervising a 50-hour clinical experience in the labor and delivery unit at Ascension St. Vincent Kokomo, adding her own experience to what they taught the students.
“As a master’s student, I want to follow the instructor’s lead, but I felt she was very welcoming about bringing my knowledge from six and a half years as a labor and delivery nurse,” Sposato said. “It made me feel more confident, and helped me feel like I could continue to grow into the nurse educator role, and that I would be good at it.”
Whitmore appreciated Sposato’s insights when working with students.
“She could provide experienced leadership, and answer questions for them, with her strong background in maternity nursing,” she said, “She went into the nursery and supervised the students going through what they needed to be doing for the baby’s exam. It was nice to have an extra person, and a great experience for her to see the difference between the role of a nurse taking care of the patients and a teacher helping students take care of the patient. She was able to provide skilled guidance as they learned.”
She also likes the example Sposato provides the undergraduates, of a nurse who is expanding her skills, setting new career goals, and continuing her education. Her next step is a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
“The role model she presents to the students about how she is furthering her career, growing, and how that will allow them to provide better care for patients, is excellent,” she said. “I like students to have that experience with someone going on for their master’s degree.”
Whitmore also learns from having Sposato assisting her — not just about nursing, but about younger students.
“I pick Margaret’s brain to see what the new things are going on in nursing,” she said. “Things do change in education. Just being with someone younger, I think there is a lot to be said for different generations having that extended interaction. It helps me connect with her generation, and gives me more insights on students. Most students are right out of high school, or in their early 20s. I’m a baby boomer, so my approach needs to adjust with the younger generations. It’s nice to get that different outlook.”
Sposato said the most important thing she learned is that creating interactive lessons makes it more likely the students will remember what she teaches.
“Bridget taught me how to integrate the information we’re teaching into a hands-on experience for them. I think it makes a huge difference in their understanding of the material,” she said. “I have a lot of skills I definitely did not have before this semester, and I’ve learned a lot about being a teacher. I feel like I’ve made a transition from nurse to nurse educator, and have a deeper understanding of the nursing profession.”