Galen’s GPS Gives Students the Keys to Steer Their Nursing Education in the Right Direction

Deborah Kessler

Galen College of Nursing’s student success course, Galen Pathway to Success (GPS), helps future graduates navigate their pathway to achieve a nursing education. Instructor Deborah Kessler, MSN, RN, is one of the driving forces in GPS at the Louisville campus, and she hopes to guide newly enrolled students toward their destination: a degree in nursing.  The course is taught in the ADN, LPN to ADN Bridge, and BSN programs.

We talked with Kessler to find out more about her experience in GPS and how it plays a vital role for Galen students.

What do students learn in GPS?

During the first week of classes, we introduce our new students to Galen’s culture and accountability. We let them know that we’re going to be there every step of the way.  In addition, we help them with a schedule and create their work-life balance, which includes their study time and time for themselves.

Our instructors help them with the basics of getting accustomed to reading textbooks. Many of our students are registered for Anatomy and Physiology classes, so just opening that textbook can be overwhelming. There are tons of words and unfamiliar terms, so we show them how to tackle the new vocabulary. Students also learn to pay attention to the objectives on the syllabus and graphical information in the text. They also learn how to maximize their time to study.

GPS was created almost two years ago. How successful is the program?

When GPS rolled out in 2018, we saw our attrition rates in our Anatomy and Physiology classes decrease.  We see more students succeed in their first two quarters and make it into nursing classes. Retention from quarter one to quarter two and quarter two to quarter three has increased. It’s exciting that we are giving them better skills at the beginning, so they’re more likely to be successful throughout the nursing programs.

Accountability and expectation of the professionalism of nursing are hardwired from the start. The result is a more qualified Galen graduate.

What kinds of resources do you provide to help students acclimate to the College curriculum?

Students will get an orientation to Canvas, so they learn how to turn in assignments and communicate with their instructors. We inform them about our Student Services and various support in case they are feeling overwhelmed.

We do a lot of faculty advising, helping them understand there’s someone who will be there to listen. We try to make GPS very comfortable for them. In the first week, I make sure that my students have my cell phone number, email, and office phone number to make sure they can contact me.

The faculty advising piece is huge because we’re not seen as only the instructor. When they sit down with us face-to-face, we’ll ask, “OK, how did your first exam go?” or send them a note. If they respond, “Well, I didn’t do so well. I need you to call me.” Then, we’ll talk about it and see what we need to do. By the time students take their second exam, we usually see an increase in self-confidence, which will have an impact on retention.

How well do students adjust online with GPS?

In Louisville, our GPS is online, so you might think there is not much camaraderie.  However, when I see a student post to our discussion board, “I didn’t do so well on the test,” another student will quickly respond, “Hey, I have the same problem. We can work together!” Our online students are great at building a cohesive network.

What is your advice to instructors who are interested in teaching GPS courses?

We have fine-tuned our program by teaching the fundamentals of literacy and how to take notes. GPS helps instructors improve their other classes because they help students develop the skills they’ll need later in the nursing program. It’s their opportunity to send students into nursing classes with the right expectations. By working with students in GPS, they will have built a teaching relationship with some of the same students.

By teaching GPS, the instructors learn techniques that can help them step up their game in their other classes. Everything you need to teach GPS is right there for you, and you have an incredible GPS faculty support network. We collaborate and share ideas and make the course better together.

Failure’s not an option. We’re here to ensure our students’ success.

What do you like most about teaching at Galen?

I love seeing the ‘aha!’ moments and the passion in these students. I love helping to form our mission of tomorrow’s nursing. Galen gives me a work-life balance that I can have a flexible schedule so that I can concentrate on my family and work. Teaching our students has tapped into my passion.

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