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Caregiver study examines special needs.

By Cacy Barnard

Micaella Saldana knows firsthand the difficulties facing many Mexican-American caregivers trying to navigate the health care system. After helping her grandparents deal with language barriers in a hospital, Saldana decided that Spanish-language educational resources for Hispanic families were few.

But Saldana's experience led to more than just frustration. It also led to an opportunity for the nursing student to help conduct research on the challenges facing Mexican-American caregivers.
"I wanted to help because I have seen the importance of effective communication from personal experience," Saldana said.

Over a period of two years, and thanks to a nationally funded research project, Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences faculty Jo Nell Wells, Carolyn Cagle and Patricia Bradley identified what was needed to effectively help Mexican-American caregivers.

During the study, which included in-depth interviews of female Mexican-American caregivers of cancer patients, the caregivers voiced statements such as: "That kind of education is not really given to Hispanic people. Even less for the people who do not speak English." "We don't know English." "I did not know how to talk to the doctor."

One caregiver said, "Once they gave me a book to find out what type of cancer it was, but it was in English. I don't know how to read in English."

This message, heard during the two-year study, led to a follow-up study funded by a Vision in Action (VIA) grant from TCU, which looked at the availability of educational materials and the literacy levels of the study participants.

Preliminary findings from the study led researchers to recommend that caregivers should be given printed information when they enter the healthcare system, and that the materials need to be in Spanish and written at a 5th grade reading level.

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New master's degree prepares nurses to be educators.

By Rachel Stowe Master '91

At the root of the national nursing shortage is a lack of teachers. So the Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences gave the crisis a shot in the arm by adding a master's in nursing education to its popular online graduate offerings.

The new degree joins the master's level clinical nurse specialist (CNS) online program, which began in 2001 with eight students. Today the CNS program has 28 students and 27 graduates, five of whom are now nursing educators. There are two students currently enrolled in the educator's program, which kicked off last fall.

The online format is key for graduate students because nurses work "crazy schedules with 12-hour shifts," said Michelle Watson '06 (MSN), manager of education at United Regional Health Care Systems in Wichita Falls. "I had a busy job and my son was younger, so it was more convenient to work online instead of going to class. It was a great fit for me, and I absolutely loved it and even recommended it to my co-workers. Six of them are now enrolled in the online nursing program."
This summer Watson will take on another role -- TCU clinical faculty member for the Wichita Falls area.

Sheryl Fernandez, a nurse for 22 years who began teaching LVNs a year ago, wants to teach registered nurses. She will complete the nurse educator program in spring 2008. "Working with such great instructors inspired me to want to be a nursing educator someday," she said.
Fernandez works full time at Hill College in Cleburne. "I couldn't do this if it was not online," she said, noting that she finds time for schoolwork in the evening, on weekends and during breaks at work.

Though both master's programs can be completed in two years, "most of our students do the part-time option for the first year to get back into the swing of things. So they do it over two to three years," said Kathleen M. Baldwin, director of graduate studies in nursing.

Most of the current online nursing students are from Texas, including several from the Metroplex, but one is in New York and another in Wisconsin.

The academic sections of both programs are all done online; clinical requirements are completed where the student lives. "So our student in Wisconsin is doing her clinical in Wisconsin," Baldwin said.

In addition to the convenience of anytime learning, signature TCU traits also draw students to the program. "It's the whole TCU philosophy," Baldwin explained. "Small class size. A lot of individual attention. You're a name, not a number. So it's all the benefits people get from coming to TCU."

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