Reflections on Student SuccessSubmitted by Mary Horstman, Nursing

How do you prepare students to become healthcare professionals in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program?

The life of a healthcare professional is especially difficult since it is a life of serving others. Healthcare workers often experience legitimate suffering either because of the patient’s lack of empathy toward them as caretakers or when they become saddened by the plight of the patient.

A solution for this journey ahead is excellent preparation for becoming a healthcare professional. I will add caring to the formula with discipline, a healthy dose of support and encouragement in my preparations with students. The most important element of a preparation program is enforcement of professional behaviors in the program. I believe this overall goal is achieved by good management, emphasis on students’ attitudes, and the teacher offering plenty of support and encouragement. Attitude and respect for each other and the patient are the themes. A lot of fun and learning transpires in the classroom.

Success is achieved by good classroom management. Rules are set forth, and students sign a contract committing to following the rules; if they do not maintain professional behavior as evidenced by participation, attendance, and attitude, they face consequences such as forfeiting points or waiving future job referrals.

How do students respond to this emphasis on professional behaviors?

Here are some examples:

  • Mike is currently finishing his Nursing Masters at Georgetown – “I don’t know if I ever told you this before. I was at a cross-roads and was not taking college seriously. I had just dropped out of the University of Iowa, and thought I might become a nurse because it paid well, so I took your class. I LOVED your course. I had found my true calling. I turned my grades around and have gotten pretty much straight A’s since leaving Iowa.”
  • My best day ever as a teacher was last spring when walking into the classroom a couple minutes late from tutoring, my students Aseel and Stephanie were writing on the board. The board is filled with notes and charts. They had started without me!
  • In a note from Alma’s counselor, I realized her growth. “I think she stuck with the class because she felt so supported by you. Thank you for recognizing her potential.”
  • Another student, Natalia, reached out to share her success at Harper as well. “I saved a baby’s life today” was the subject line of an email from Natalia. The class gave her the training and most of all the courage to do this.

Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach says that good teaching does not come from technique but from the integrity of the teacher and the breadth of a teacher’s experience. I lean on my years of academic and professional experiences and integrate them into the classroom. But most of all, I have learned that the connections are not only made by methods but in their hearts. Discipline with heart was reflected in a most humbling comment from one of the Long Term Care resident’s we served: “Your students have a glow to them…reflected by you.”


If you have a student success story that you would like to share with the Reflection on Student Success Community of Practice please contact Steven Titus, English, at the following email for more information: stitus@harpercollege.edu.