Working with Difficulty Students Begins with You

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October 31  |  News  |   Ruth

Keeping a positive mental attitude in the face of difficulty isn’t easy. In fact, according to psychologists, our brains seem to be hardwired to focus on the negative, as studies have shown. However, there is some positivity to focus on: many studies have also demonstrated that positivity an “attitude of gratitude” and engaging in regular exercise and meditation have dramatic effects on our sense of well being.

Identify negative and automatic thoughts and counter them with alternatives. Typically, these thoughts frame situations in terms of black and white and either/or terms. They also tend to make logical leaps. For example, your boss may have a look of disapproval. An automatic thought might be to assume she is angry because you were late to work. But you were only late to work by a couple of minutes, and you’re always on time if not early, so it’s ridiculous that your boss should be so angry. And the train of assumptions can go on indefinitely. When you encounter such thoughts when working with students, reframe your assessment from terms that this is the case to this may be the case along with other possibilities. Consider other possibilities, including those that have nothing to do with you. Practice reality testing by asking yourself is your first assumption the only possibility.

Keep an open mind when students are discussing problems and situations. There may be underlying circumstances that you are not aware of. Allow the student to voice concerns and problems before jumping to conclusions.

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About Ruth

Ms. Eckenstein has worked for over 34 years as a nurse, nurse educator, and allied health educator. She owns Health Careers Education Consulting, a consulting company where she has assisted clients’ to align curriculum and meet accreditation standards. Ms. Eckenstein works seamlessly with many customer teams on multiple curriculum development projects. She works closely with publishing companies as a consultant to assist in the development of customized curriculum for nursing and allied health programs. These customized materials include course support documents such as lesson plans, tests, homework assignments, assessments, and other standardized materials for student and faculty use. Additionally, she assists programs in putting courses into online learning management systems for student and faculty use. After teaching nursing for 14 years, she worked for the Oklahoma State Department of Career Tech for over 14 years where she was responsible for accreditation of nursing and allied health programs. She worked as a consultant offering her expertise on problem-solving issues such as low pass rate, new teacher retention, meeting accreditation standards, and curriculum development for over 54 Technology Center campuses across Oklahoma. As a leader in non-traditional learning strategies, she has set the trend for facilitator-led training as well use of other up-to-date instructional strategies in Oklahoma and at the national level. She started the first self-paced, student-centered nursing program in Oklahoma and developed student-scaffolding tools that are still used today. Other programs in the state have followed her lead resulting in over 70% of all LPN programs in the state offering self-paced, facilitated led, student-center nursing programs which do not have formal lectures. She assisted the state of Texas through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on a project to align nursing curriculum following a mandate from the 80th Texas Legislature (SB139). She worked closely with another project consultant to identify board conceptual components of nursing education that would be used by all nursing programs within the state. The suggested curriculum framework emphasized the need to respond to nursing education issues such as Benner's works regarding Novice to Expert, Institute of Medicine (IOM) Recommendations on the Future of Nursing, and Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) standards for safe patient care. She also referred often to the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education (OCNE) work on the realignment of curriculum to assist with seamless education. She uses her expertise to assist nursing and allied health programs to improve program initiatives that will result in student success on licensure exams. She also provides coaching and management development to nursing and allied health program administrators by teaching and using communication techniques to build teams and strong relationships.

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