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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Licensed Vocational Nursing instructor balances tough with tender

July 14, 2015
Licensed Vocational Nursing-instructor Denise Scrimshire
Denise Scrimshire and sons Vance and Elijah enjoy family weekends and various sports activities together.

Some 25 years ago – when Licensed Vocational Nursing instructor Denise Scrimshire was a nursing student – her instructor was a real whip-cracker.

“Ms. Gandy had very high expectations and everybody feared her, but she was highly revered, and I wanted to be as good as she was,” says Denise. “It was tough, it was strict and it was rigid, but that’s the way I learned.”

Ms. Scrimshire has mastered the art of nudge and nurture. “Learning should be fun, but my students know that when they come in it’s all about business,” says the Visalia campus instructor, who teaches theory.

The Licensed Vocational Nursing program is information-heavy and accelerated, so it takes a little creativity to break so many facts into manageable blocks. “They can only listen to me for so long before I lose them,” says Denise.

She has come up with “Monkey Ball,” a game that is both fun and challenging to her students. Music plays while a ball is tossed from student to student. When Denise stops the music the person holding the ball must answer a question that pertains to recent studies. “The rest of the class interjects and there is some level of engagement,” says Denise.

Everything that happens in Denise’s class is geared toward successful program completion. “You don’t learn everything in nursing school,” she continues. “I try to share my experiences with my students so they will know what it’s really like out there.”

“Ms. Scrimshire gives good lectures with interesting information in regards to the subject,” says student Barbara Grimsley. “Thanks, Ms. Scrim, for all the ‘GTKs’ (good-to-knows) and all the extra info we only get at SJVC!”

“I want students to have the confidence to move out and actually give care to a human being,” says Denise. “I try to give them knowledge and clinical experience that prepare them for employment.”

There are two important aspects of nursing professionalism that Denise stresses:

  1. Time Management. “It is going to be a problem for some, and others have got that down,” she says. Age groups, life experience and maturity levels have a tremendous impact.
  2. Professional assertiveness. “You have to be a teacher to that patient, you have to be an advocate for the patient and assertive enough to tell a physician that you don’t think an order is right.”

“You have to be able to apply what you’ve learned in a confident voice,” she summarizes.

Denise spent several years using her professional nurse’s voice before coming to SJVC seven years ago, first as a part-time, and now full-time instructor. “SJVC was my first foray into education and out of the medical community,” she says. “I did my time working weekends and holidays, and I was ready for a more predicable schedule so I could spend more time with my sons (Vance, 17, and Elijah, 15).”

A current “after-hours” job function – that happens to be one of her favorites – is her program’s Pinning Ceremony. Recently, 27 SJVC students participated in this ceremony, which is an important milestone for all nursing students.

Licensed Vocational Nursing students’ next big event is taking the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Exam), an exam that awards licensure to successful candidates to practice nursing. “It is a state exam that proves they have the knowledge, skills and competency to be a nurse,” says Denise.

But before her students get to this point, they must take all they have learned in the classroom and lab and prove their professionalism in the actual medical world through clinical rotations.

The day after her students’ first clinical rotation, Denise Scrimshire asks the tough questions. “Have you connected with someone? Have you had that experience of actually looking into a patient’s eyes and be in the moment with them?”

“I let them know that the bond they develop with their patient is very intimate and very trusting,” says Denise. “There are patients I will never forget.”

One of her inspirational posts says it best: Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart, rather than a piece of our mind.

Denise admits that those intimate moments can also be difficult to invite. “In the beginning, students don’t want to get that close to patients. Some are pretty shy.”

There is also risk of an unpleasant outcome. “Students tell me, ‘I got spit on,’ or ‘somebody threw up on me,'” says Denise. Great reward always comes with a little risk.

Denise lives what she lectures. She seeks every opportunity to make direct eye contact, and connect with and establish trusting communication with every student who walks into her class. She knows the value of that spark of recognition.

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