April 17, 2014
By Toni Cardarella
On this particular morning in the Clinical Learning Lab at the University of Kansas School of Nursing, graduate teaching assistant Jordan Leal is showing physical therapy students how to suction a ventilated patient.
"As GTAs, we get to teach students how to do skills they will need in the workplace such as chest tubes, Foley catheters, IV starts, and blood transfusions, in a simulated, real-life environment," says Leal, who will graduate in August with a master's degree in nursing with an adult/gerontology focus.
Leal says her experience as a GTA this semester and in the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters has been great. "The work is a fun way to earn extra cash and tuition forgiveness."
Molly Morrill, who's been a GTA for the last two years, likes working with students and faculty in other fields, such as medicine, occupational therapy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, pharmacy, dietetics, and health informatics.
"The interprofessional education experiences are designed for the students to learn but I do think the GTAs learn as well, about other career fields and how to collaborate with them in our own professions," says Morrill, who will graduate in July with a master's degree as an adult/gerontology nurse practitioner
Morrill says being a GTA opened up a whole different side of nursing.
"Admittedly, I first got into it because I was looking for a change from five years of bedside nursing, and I heard about the tuition reimbursement in exchange for the work," she says. "Little did I know that this would turn into something that I love doing and would like to continue in as a career."
Morrill pointed to the enthusiasm of the undergraduate students who come in -- they've completed their pre-requisite requirements and are solely focused on nursing classes. "They want to succeed, are eager to learn, and genuinely want to master the skills and knowledge that they are learning," she says. "I think that often the students feel more comfortable approaching us with questions than the faculty because we are students as well, and many of us walked in their shoes not too long ago."
GTA Jackie Nelson-TeBeest says working in the lab for six semesters has made her more aware as a student.
"It's easy to put professors in these roles where we, as students, depend on them for everything," says Nelson-TeBeest, who will graduate from the Family Nurse Practitioner program in August 2014. "Being a GTA has taught me that much of learning is about self-direction and dedication to the content.
"Also, I know the experience I have educating people of all backgrounds will help me in my future job search."
The lab is currently accepting applications for two types of GTA positions. To learn more, visit the GTA Information page on the Clinical Learning Laboratory website. Interested graduate students can apply online.