Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing
As a clinical assistant professor of nursing, Marie Ahrens manages the community health experience for nursing students. “So much health care and nursing care is provided in the community setting—not in the hospital setting,” Ahrens says. “By focusing on nursing care and how people interact it opens a student’s options.”
Students begin the clinical experience during their sophomore year, giving them five semesters of interaction with healthcare professionals. “The student’s clinical introduction during their sophomore year includes a clinical experience at child care facilities to allow them to see how people manage regular growth and development and minor health problems,” Ahrens explains. After beginning nursing courses, students have a community health experience each semester. The rotations coincide with classroom education, reinforcing what they learn with real-world applications, including hospice, home health, clinics as well as in-patient units at hospitals.
Some students even find unexpected opportunities such as the sometimes overlooked position of school nurse. “One student was apprehensive at first, but she clicked with the school nurse, fell in love with the kids and was able to do several different advanced interventions,” Ahrens says. “It was a nursing opportunity she had not considered before.”
In addition, students take part in projects that benefit the community such as coordinating a health fair on influenza and vaccinations. They also have developed a cookbook for low income families, who require low salt diets. Several students have also updated pamphlets and information in clinic offices.
Ahrens says one of the most important benefits of exposure to a variety of settings is the development of the student through the process. “A majority of our graduates work in the hospital setting,” she says. “But their exposure to all community health settings makes them better assessors of the client’s situation.
Ahrens is a role model for her students in community involvement by participating in many community organizations such as United Way Day of Caring, Osage Community Health Education Center, Tulsa Health Department, Tulsa Public Schools, St. Dunstan’s Adult Day Services, Day Center for the Homeless, and Medical Reserve Corps. Her superior community service was recognized by receiving both the OKAHEC Professional Partner Award and Oklahoma Nurses Association Nightingale Award.