Episode 136 Nurturing Careers: The Role of ePortfolios in Nursing Education Part 1

Welcome to Digication
Scholars Conversations.

I'm your host, Kelly Driscoll.

In this episode, you'll hear part one
of my conversation with Tina Abate,

Clinical Assistant Professor and
Coordinator of the Nursing Student

Internship Program in Stony Brook
University's School of Nursing.

More links and information about today's
conversation can be found on Digication's

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Full episodes of Digication Scholars
Conversations can be found on

YouTube or your favorite podcast app.

Welcome to Digication
Scholars Conversations.

I'm your host, Kelly Driscoll, and today
I am so pleased to welcome Tina Abbate.

Tina is a clinical assistant professor
and coordinator of the Nursing

Student Internship Program in Stony
Brook University's School of Nursing.

Welcome, Tina.

Thank you for having me.


So, Tina, I would love to start our
conversation today just learning

a little bit about what brought
you to Stony Brook University.

It's such a beautiful, unique
area and institution, so I

would love for our listeners to
learn a little bit about that.

Sure thing.

So, I was born and raised, um,
on Long Island, and I started

my nursing career at Stony Brook
University Hospital in Nicolls.

Um, then around 2006, I, uh, decided to
go back to school, to graduate school.

So, I was, uh, lucky enough to
be awarded a fellowship program

at Binghamton University.

So, Um...

I lived there from 2006 to 2015, so
I graduated with my doctorate in 2015

and it was time to head back home.

So um, a position opened at Stony Brook
University School of Nursing and I was

very honored to accept it and I've been
there for eight years now and I love it

and I just see myself retiring from there.

It's just Just an amazing place to work.



It's a really special school.

I, I had the opportunity to visit the
campus a few times and Oh my gosh, I still

remember this adorable little bed and
breakfast that was close to an area where

you could walk by the water, although I'm
sure there's a lot of areas where you can

walk by the water, but it was so gorgeous.

There are all these waterfall and I
got to enjoy the sunset there, so I

have happy memories of my time visiting
this school and I don't know if you

know this, but Digication's actually
been, uh, working with SBU since 2007.

So, it's been a very long history,
and, uh, you're our first guest from

Stony Brook University, so I'm very
excited to, to have you on the podcast.

And, um, I was interested, you know,
can you recall when your passion

for healthcare started to emerge?

Was there someone in your life or,
um, maybe an experience that you

had that was an inspiration to you?


In high school, actually.


I, I knew, I knew, I knew I wanted to
do something where I was helping people.

I just wasn't sure where
I was going to land.

Um, in that regard, but, um, I
had originally wanted to be a

pediatrician, so our high school had
a program where you could shadow a

doctor for the day, and, um, I spent
the bulk of that day with a nurse.

And I said, wait a minute,
um, this is what I want.

I want that, uh, interaction with
patients, um, like nurses do.

And so I pursued my bachelor's degree from
Binghamton, um, in Nursing, and it really

is a phenomenal career, a profession to
be in because we have so many different

options, um, you don't even have to be
at the bedside or working with patients.

There are so many roles, um, that you
can have within the nursing profession.

It's just that dynamic.

So, you know, I feel very lucky that,
um, I had that experience because it

really guided me to my present day.



And so tell us a little bit about
your time in the Nicoll as well.

I'm sure that that was very special and
what was it that kind of made you shift

and get more involved in, in teaching?

So, um, my goal was never really to teach.

When I pursued my doctorate, I,
I got into the BS to PhD program

and, um, my, my research was very,
uh, neonatal ICU, um, focused.

I did my dissertation on, on
gastroschisis, um, so I was

heading down more of a, a clinical
research type of background.

Um, but then, uh, in 2007, I was asked,
uh, to teach a clinical group to bring

a group of students to the Nicolls
and, um, you know, being a graduate

student, it was financially difficult
at the time and they were offering me

wages and I said, okay, absolutely.

So I brought students to the Nicoll
and, um, just something came over me.

It was just as if I had met
my professional soulmate.

Like, it was like that deep, like,
I said, What's happening here?

Like, I, it It was a complete
departure from what my goals

were because I was also thinking
hospital administration and things.

So I continued to ask
for teaching assignments.

And I just, uh, I fell in head over
heels and it's really just, it's become

part of my core being at this point.

So and I've been teaching
now for 16 years.




So we have, um, uh, an
interesting connection, uh,

that I wasn't expecting today.

One of the children that I adopted
was actually born with gastroschisis.

And I'm not even probably
pronouncing it correctly.

It's a big work.



But, um, he was in the Nicoll,
um, for almost two months.

Um, I did not, I hadn't met him
yet at the time, but learning about

that, it's just incredible what
modern medicine can handle, really.

And what babies can
handle too because Right.

They, they, they are my goalies.



beings ever.

And yeah, I just have the most
love and respect for babies, uh,

that will always be part of me.

Um, so that's incredible what
they endure, but still persevere.



I mean, they are, I mean,
they arise here, made to.

Survive, really.

I mean, it is definitely just built in.

They require a lot of care and
attention, but they are still,

yeah, lighty, lighty little being.

It's more about light.

I hope he's okay.

Yes, he's wonderful.

I'm glad.

Yes, yes.

Thank you for asking.

Yeah, he's doing great.

Um, so circling back to, uh, The
School of Nursing and Digication,

so do you know when the School of
Nursing started using Digication?

Were you a part of that or was
it something that was already

integrated when you joined?

At least in the undergraduate program,
um, I had introduced it, I would

say about 2018 or so, um, as part
of the leadership and management

courses in the undergraduate program.

Um, so I would say about 2018.

Okay, great.


And I know more about what you were doing,
you know, a little bit, not, I'll know

more in a few minutes, but I know more
about what you were doing within the, um,

kind of student internship program, but I
would love to hear if, you know, if you're

still utilizing ePortfolios and other
kinds of courses and experiences as well.

Um, so it sounds like you may have been
one of the early users of ePortfolio

technology within the School of Nursing.

And was it that management
course that was where it began?



And did it have any kind
of, um, connections to

accreditation or assessment?

Because I know, in some other healthcare
related fields, that's sometimes how

this kind of technology gets, um,
gets incorporated into the curriculum.

Um, and other times it's more
focused on providing a space for

the students to really tell their
story about their experiences.

So I was kind of curious how it might have
Um, maybe first started and if there's

been any kind of evolution since it began.


Um, it had just started really with
them, uh, developing a resume because

we have student learning objectives
that in this course, um, and the

formal term is, uh, transitions
into baccalaureate nursing practice.


Um, I just call it leadership and
management for short, but it's basically

bridging that journey between student
and baccalaureate prepared nurse.

Um, so the course focuses, um, in part on
developing your career, putting your best

foot forward, and we have starting student
learning outcomes that pertain to that.

So it started with a resume and
then I decided to take it a step

further with our RN to BS students.

Now these are students that have their
two year RN degree and they're pursuing

their four year baccalaureate degree.

So in the course, not only do they
develop their resume, but they

also develop this e portfolio.

As part of the course and
part of their course grade.



So as they're coming in, you know, at
these different kinds of levels in their,

um, kind of education and professional
pursuits, how, how are you introducing

them to this type of technology and maybe
how it may differ from other kinds of.

tools that they're using either at
school or when they're in the field.

So, um, I ha...

We have them get into the education
program sooner than later, even though

the, uh, assignment is due at the end.

And we provide them a lot of guidance,
um, and we have, uh, a very prescriptive,

prescriptive rubric that details what they
should be including in this ePortfolio

so that they can start collecting their
materials and, um, they, part of their,

the points earned are also visual appeal.

Because you can have just a
straightforward, um, ePortfolio,

which is fine, but to have a little
bit more visual appear and flair

to it, I think is very helpful.

So that's, you know, they want to earn
the top-tier points for each category

that includes some sort of visual appeal.

It doesn't have to be anything crazy, but,
um, you know, something just to make it

a bit more appealing as you look at it.

Um, so they also get, um, resources
on how to access, uh, you know, Bring

them to the tutorials that you provide.

Um, I also have some screenshots
of my own and then of course I can

reach out to Digication or myself
for any, um, you know, it takes a

little, this definitely a learning
curve with any platform that you use.

So, um, once they get the hang
of it, then, then they're fine.

Oh, good.

Glad to hear that.

And I know.

As we've been developing Digication
over time, we really have had a focus

on making it something that can be
personalized and, um, you know, giving

students the opportunity to present
who they are, not just, um, you know,

um, using it as a file repository and
I know in especially sometimes in more

healthcare oriented disciplines or any
kind of professional practice programs

they're often required to share you
know their experience and certifications

professional development opportunities
but very often other platforms are very

kind of form-oriented and very strict
in how that information is presented.

So do you feel like the students enjoyed
the opportunity to do something that

wasn't so form-oriented, even if there
was a little bit of a learning curve.

Did they find that that
was valuable to them?

Yeah, I think so because it,
Digication, uh, definitely is flexible

and gives you that levity to develop
something that can represent you.

Um, so I have seen some really,
I've graded some very amazing,

beautiful, it's almost like artwork.

You know, some of these, uh,
students really just go that

extra mile to create these, uh, I
would say ePortfolio art, I guess.

And you really can really, um,
understand and get to know the student

just by taking a journey through
their ePortfolio and, you know,

career development is so important.

Uh, in this course, they go
through a mock interview, um,

with someone that they don't know.

And, um, Actually, our mock interviewers
are a master of leadership and

education students, so they need
experience in interviewing, and, um,

the students as well, to get really,
uh, immersed and get some practice

in nursing profession-oriented
interviewing questions.

So the master's students interview
the RN students, the undergraduate

students, uh, for a fictitious job
and they can choose either a med surg.

position, uh, a leadership position
or applying to graduate school.

So the interview can have
one of those three foci.

I okay And then the students then go off
and meet with the Career Center one on

one and they get their resume tweaked by
them because they're, you know, really

the experts in resume development.

And, um, you know, the final
part of it is to put all of this

together into an ePortfolio.

They need something that will set
them apart from the, you know,

fellow candidates for a job that
they're pursuing or graduate school.

So I think, um, It's more of
a holistic type of approach.



And as they're building this out, um,
you know, you mentioned that the process

started with, with the resume and then
it sounds like it's evolved to include.

Other kinds of content that they've
created, maybe as part of your class, but

also other classes that they've taken.

Could you describe a little bit about what
kinds of things that they're including

within those ePortfolio pages now?

Um, maybe in addition to the, the resume?

So definitely the resume.

They have a welcome page where
they introduce themselves.

We encourage them to include a photo
and just give a brief description about

themselves and their, um, work history.

They can record it, get audio or they
can, you know, Do both narratives and

audio if they, they wish, um, they
put in their nursing philosophy, which

is constructed in a previous course.

So they take their nursing philosophy
and they present it as one of

their first tabs in the ePortfolio.

They also put in, um, their goals.

Where do they see themselves?

That's such a typical
interview question, right?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

So, that's housed in the ePortfolio and,
um, any certifications, professional

development, things like that.

And the last thing that they, um,
include is they do a poster presentation

in, um, the sibling course that we
have for leadership and management.

So, they put their professional
poster in there as well, where

they do like a hypothetical.

Um, EPP project that's
leadership oriented.

So they have, you know, a nice
display, a professional display

of one of their um, projects.

It's so much better than
uploading a paper, you know.

So this is just uh, a really
great thing to include in there.

So that's what they um,
have in their ePortfolio.


So are they doing any kind of um, I know,
you know, as part of your roles, you're

coordinating the, um, the internship
program with the nursing students.

Are they pulling in any kind
of reflections or, um, maybe

materials about that kind of
internship experience as well?

I know they're not sharing, you know,
specifics about the, the patients and

things, but are they able to share?

Elements of what that kind of experience
was like for them in their ePortfolio.

Not at this point, but that is
definitely something to consider.

So right now I have this
assignment with our RN.

These are post licensure students.

This spring I'm bringing in, I
will be bringing in ePortfolios

to the pre licensure students.


So, and in the internship I
have pre licensure students.

So they, these pre licensure students,
take transition into professional practice

as part of their last semester, just
like the RN students, um, and what I

see with that is, um, on their resume,
putting a QR code to their ePortfolio,

just like I recommend to the RN students.

Yeah, um, and they can, you know,
link out so that when they're

uploading their resumes and things,
um, for their job applications,

that QR code will be right there.


So, um, adding reflections, I
think, is a, is a great idea.

to have a tab like reflect
reflections of student nursing

or something to that effect.

Yeah, we've had some other programs that
have had a lot of success in using that

as a plate because so often when they go
You know, before they've had these kind of

field experiences or even, you know, maybe
having an experience with even a group

of other nurses, you know, there's things
that are being learned every day, right?


And having that space for them to, uh,
Um, you know, not just, you know, kind

of document the day to day, but you
know, there's these incredible kind of

light bulb moments that happen in those
kinds of experiences and it can be a

beautiful place for that to be recorded.

And I know sometimes they
keep that area private.

And may, um, you know, make decisions
about how they might like to craft

that to be shared with external
audiences later as part of that

more career oriented portfolio.

And, um, so if that's something
you're interested in pursuing, I'd

love to show you other examples.

So that you might get some ideas
about how to do that with your,

um, nursing students as well.

I think they'd really love that.

They'd enjoy it.

And you'll probably love reading them.

I love hearing those types of, um,
stories from students and it really

connects them to the profession even more.


Yeah, yeah.

Um, and in terms of the kind of, uh,
interviewing process, if they've gone

through kind of crafting that narrative,
even if they're not showing that exact

page to the person interviewing, it'll
be kind of at the top of their resume.

mind and describing, you know, experiences
that they've had in the field too.

So we, we can chat more about that after.

That sounds good.

I love to see them used in any kind
of field experience, internships.

Um, I just think they're
such a great asset.

Um, but I was curious, so when you
started, you know, using this with the

students, and maybe it's something that
you kind of communicate to them now,

um, you know, from your perspective,
what kind of value do you feel like

The e portfolios give the students and
then what kind of value maybe does it

provide to the School of Nursing at
maybe, you know, during the time that

you're actually working with the students
and maybe even beyond that because

they do have access as alumni as well.

Yeah, which is very important.

So That they continue having this
access beyond their graduation date.


Well, like I said, career development
is so important for so many reasons,

but at the core, for me personally,
how I feel about career development is

I want them to land their dream job.

I want them to be offered their
dream job and their backup jobs.

Um, but I, if they are interested in.

The ER or another specialty area.

Those areas tend to be very
competitive and, you know, they're all

graduating roughly at the same time.

So there's competition for
these fellowship programs.

And, um, so I feel that they can land
their dream job that they have been

working towards for their entire program.

Then they're more likely to stay
and that could possibly impact

Turner, you know, turnover.


So let's put them in a position
in the best position possible to

nail that job that they really
have wanted to pursue from day one.

So that maybe that they'll stay.

Right, right.

Because we do, we see our,
our, uh, turnover rate since

the pandemic has increased.

So we need to do some work pre pandemic,
but definitely now post pandemic, um,

in trying to curtail that turnover rate.

Because it does cost an
institution a lot of money to train

individuals and things like that.

So, you know, if they don't get that dream
job and they have to take their backup

job, there's going to be a turnover there.

You can almost guarantee
it, um, in these days.

So, yeah, yeah.

That's where I really feel career
development and giving them a

rounded opportunity to present
themselves is so important.



And I was curious too, if they're ever
approached as, um, you know, almost as

advocacy tools for, for nursing and the
field, um, because they do, I think...

provide information about, you know, what
is at the heart of that individual and

why they are pursuing that as a career,
you know, as you were mentioning, you

know, it kind of became part of your core.

And your journey, you know, it
wasn't a straight path to, to where

you are now, but you wouldn't be
where you are now without having

had those prior experiences.

So you know, I was curious if the
students are, are sharing their

ePortfolios, um, with other students
as they're going through the program,

if they're sharing them with...

other, um, professors
that they're working with.

Do they get shared with any kind of
site supervisors that they might have?

What is, what is that process like?

Well, they have the opportunity
to share their ePortfolios in

any manner that they choose.

Um, but you know, I.

A resume only tells you the professional
aspect, the e portfolio pads, that

information with the personal aspect,
and we have many students that enter

the profession because they had a
history of some sort of cancer or

some sort of disease process that
put them in the care of nursing.

And that's why.

They became a nurse or a family
member or, you know, these stories

are just incredible to hear.

And, you know, I hear them
anecdotally, but to have them, you

know, housed if they're comfortable
with it in an ePortfolio that says,

this is why I'm pursuing nursing.

And I want to advocate for
the psychiatric patient.

I want to advocate for the
pediatric oncology patient.

You know, the ePortfolio
is the perfect place.

You can't really express that.

On a resume.

So it just takes that resume to
the next level by giving, you

know, the person who's reading
it some insight into this person.


So, you know, how they choose
to share it though is, you

know, based on an individual.

We don't have any strict
requirements on that.

Um, they don't do peer review.

I mean, just ePortfolio.

Um, but that is certain, certainly
something, um, I would consider for

the pre licensure students, right?


And maybe a part of that
internship experience.





Uh, do you know, you know, as part of,
um, the process, if they are choosing to

share them out, uh, maybe with potential
employers, you mentioned that You give

them advice on including the QR code.

Um, have you heard back from any students
about, you know, if they heard from a

potential employer that they looked at
their portfolio, or if there was something

about the process of putting the portfolio
together that may have helped them when

they got into that interview stage?

Not, not specifically ePortfolio oriented.

Um, I do get, um, emails and
correspondence from students after they

graduated saying I, I got the job that I
wanted, um, you know, and they'll offer

their gratitude for the course and all
the career development that we've done.

And that just, that feels so good, you
know, that I've got the job that they,

they want because you know, when we
look at turnover, um, and retention, all

of that trickles down to the patient.

Yeah, so having a facility with
low turnover and I'm not saying

ePortfolios is the cure for tur...

turnover or retention.

Oh, alright, yeah., but you know,
it could be part of how we can

keep, um Employees in one place.

Yeah, you know for longer,
um It's just a thought.


Yeah and finding that position that
is You know, a good fit for them

where they are at that point, right?

Um, and it may keep expanding from there,
but for, yeah, for them to be able to

get their dream job, as you mentioned,
uh, right when they graduate is, is huge.

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