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HealthAugust 24, 2020

Know thy student: Become a salesman

By: Christie Cavallo, MSN, RN, EdDc, CNE, CNEcl
I recently watched a syndicated episode of “The Office,” where the characters, Dwight Shrute and Michael Scott, fought over landing a paper customer’s business. Dwight had taken Michael’s Rolodex of clients in which Michael had written personal facts about each of his clients: their children’s names, type of paper they liked, favorite hobbies, and information about their hobbies.

Dwight took Michael’s Rolodex because he knew the secret to a good salesman’s success was knowing their customers! At that moment, I knew what was missing from my relationships with my nursing students: knowing them. Knowing someone involves having knowledge that only a few share with that person. The few that the student trusts. Shouldn’t the nurse educator be one of those? Trust is essential to the student being able to receive what the educator is teaching. Trust establishes relationships where communication is flowing, valued, and reciprocal.

I know what you are saying, “In my already busy schedule, how in the world do I get to know my students this way, and especially now they are all online? Do I need to buy a Rolodex and start interviewing my students one by one?” The answer is “no.” Instead, purpose this next semester to include three practices that foster knowing your students.

Establish an orientation activity

The activity can be face-to-face or online. Give the students four fun questions to answer about themselves on index cards or Word Documents such as “What is the best job you have had?” “Cat or dog lover?” “What are your favorite songs, and why?” “Where is the farthest you have traveled for business or pleasure?” We always ask the hardcore interrogation questions such as birthplace, reasons for choosing nursing, and current residence. These interrogation questions do not give us any new information that we do not already have from the bursar.

Get class pictures

Have your students submit a headshot of themselves or ask your advertising department to get photos of each student. Place these pictures on a Word Document with each student’s name and distribute it to all the teachers. Place the pictures in your LMS under course information for easy access. Learn your students’ names by referring to this document often. There is nothing sweeter than hearing your name spoken correctly by your instructor. Print one to copy and paste the student’s pictures and names on the cards or Word Documents created with the orientation activity.

Use the information often

Emails, meetings, zooms…we have many opportunities as nurse educators to communicate with our students. When you are communicating with your students, use the information you have collected from the orientation activity. Maybe the student divulged in the orientation activity that the best job they ever had was being a high school pharmacy technician. You share with the student that your brother is a pharmacist and relies on his technicians to serve his customers. Ask the student what their daily job responsibilities were. Bam! A step closer to knowing thy student!

I once called a student “Jessica” for the entire 18 months she was in our nursing program. Her name was Sally. Do you think that student trusted me? Do you think she learned well in my classroom with me not even knowing her name? In summary, knowing our nursing students is essential to our classroom instruction, skill acquisition, clinical teaching, and fostering simulation. It does not happen automatically but rather through purposeful, mindful steps. Just ask Sally!

What are your techniques for knowing your students? Do you think that it is essential to building trust and rapport with your students? I would love to hear your feedback. Please email me at [email protected].

Christie Cavallo, MSN, RN, EdDc, CNE, CNEcl
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
Lippincott® Nursing Education
Preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s nurses
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