KOKOMO, Ind. – Laura Finn’s patient presents a puzzle — and as a future primary health care provider, it’s her job to solve it.
Finn, a student in Indiana University Kokomo’s Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, listened intently during the simulated appointment, with Dea Kent, program director, watching nearby.
The patient — a volunteer — details her symptoms. After a series of questions, Finn can pinpoint the problem, suggesting a diagnosis. Kent nodded her approval, signaling the end of the practice appointment, and completion of Finn’s final exam for her Advanced Health Assessment class.
“This class has been great for preparation in assessments,” said Finn, noting that they are learning to do the kinds of comprehensive exams FNPs do, building on skills learned as Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) care providers.
She can already see growth in her skills, as she prepares to move into a primary care provider role, after 10 years in nursing.
“I’ve noticed a difference in my work, and several physicians I work with have commented on it too,” she said.
Thirteen students performed assessments on volunteer patients, who were each given a reason for their visit, history, and list of medications. The students then asked questions and performed examinations, under Kent’s guidance, to works toward a working diagnosis and recommendations for further testing. After the exercise, each one wrote a summary of the visit, included as part of the final exam.
As the students completed the first of two years of the FNP program, the simulation prepares them for their clinical experiences with real patients during the spring semester.
“The students gained confidence in interacting with their patients, as a provider or director of care,” she said. “They were also validated in their assessment and diagnostic skills, as well as the content and completeness of their visit note.”
Finn admitted even though she’s been a nurse for a long time, she was nervous for the assessment. It was a valuable experience, though, because it gave her evidence of what she’s learned.
“Not knowing ahead of time what the patient’s complaint is prepares you to go in, ask questions, and work towards a diagnosis,” she said. “You have to have very broad general knowledge, and take all the complaints and symptoms into account. You have to focus on the whole patient.”