Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs



Nancy Oldenburg
Nancy Oldenburg

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

December 15, 2008

Illinois Board of Higher Education
honors NIU professor
with Nurse Educator Fellowship Award

DeKalb — Nancy Oldenburg has become the fourth nursing professor from Northern Illinois University to receive a prestigious Nurse Educator Fellowship Award from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Oldenburg and 14 other nursing faculty from around the state were named Dec. 9 as the third class of a program created to ensure the retention of well-qualified nursing educators: Illinois, like other states, is suffering from a critical lack of nurses and nursing educators.

Recipients of the nursing fellowships collaborate with the IBHE and the Illinois Center for Nursing, assist in reviewing nomination materials for future fellows and participate in conferences. They must participate in statewide nursing advocacy and prepare final reports that describe their fellowship experiences.

Fellows also receive $10,000 each to further their work as teachers and researchers.

“I’m really excited about the opportunities it’s given other faculty here at NIU, and I’m certainly very excited to have this opportunity myself,” said Oldenburg, an assistant professor who came to the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences as an instructor in 2001.

NIU colleagues Judith Hertz and Donna Plonczynski are charter Fellows. Karen Baldwin was named last year.

“This good news speaks very well of our program and the caliber of our faculty. Nancy is a faculty member who always rises to the need of the school and the students,” said Brigid Lusk, chair of the NIU School of Nursing and Health Studies.

“She’s a dependable, outstanding teacher, and this year she was invited by the graduating seniors, just last Sunday, to be their speaker at the convocation ceremony,” Lusk added. “I admire her consistent team spirit. We have had some instructors who, for health reasons or other reasons, have suddenly had to leave teaching. She has repeatedly filled in for them. She always puts students first.”

Oldenburg, who spent 25 years as a pediatric nurse in hospitals before coming to academia, will apply her grant to developing a new teaching module that requires nursing students to write and present medical scenarios to their classmates.

Few nursing schools require student-written scenarios, Oldenburg said. She plans to start with her Fall 2009 section of “Child Health.”

“I’ll give them a list of ideas, and I’ll give them some guidance – steps that need to be completed by certain times throughout the semester,” she said. “This will involve a lot of research, and they’ll have to actually apply the things they find. They’re going to have to predict how the child might react, and the measures that have to be taken for the child.”

Students will deliver their scenarios in the school’s new Human Patient Simulation laboratory.

Purchased with an IBHE grant, the state-of-the-art equipment allows students to practice and learn techniques again and again on artificial patients incapable of injury or death.

The “patients,” which include an infant, also help students to learn diagnosis skills, including different cardiac and pulmonary diseases: The sims have realistic heart and lung sounds and even turn blue if deprived of oxygen.

Students also can discover numerous symptoms and conditions that might not exhibit themselves during their clinical rotations in real emergency rooms. Their HPS interactions are monitored in real-time with cameras and recorded digitally as faculty watch from behind a two-way mirror.

“I’m looking forward to seeing their progress on the simulation, including the actions of the nurse and the reactions of the child,” Oldenburg said. “The main thing they’re going to get out of this exercise is actually applying what they’re learning in the classroom. They do that in a clinical setting, of course, but there are a limited number of conditions they’re actually exposed to in a brief clinical experience.”

Oldenburg, who recently completed a doctoral degree in educational technology from NIU, will spend the spring semester teaching online courses. “That’s exciting,” she said. “It’s my area of interest.”

The winner of NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award in 2007 also is passionate about lifelong learning.

Nursing demands intellectuals, she said then to explain her teaching philosophy, and the education doesn’t stop with a degree and nursing licensure exam.

“It’s important they know how to learn, and that if they need information, they know where to find it and can judge the validity of what they find,” she said. “The most important thing is for students to understand why they’re doing something. The whole picture of what’s wrong with the patient becomes so much more obvious to them, and it makes them such better nurses.”

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