Behind the scenes: Aleta Pillai

Assistant Professor and Associate Chair for Nursing at Davenport University

Aleta Pillai is an assistant professor and associate chair for nursing at Davenport University’s downtown Lansing campus. Previously at Great Lakes Bay in Midland, Pillai opened the nursing program at Davenport’s Lansing campus in 2014. With a background in long-term care and medical/surgical nursing, her passion shines through as she mentors faculty, oversees the nursing program and faculty on her staff, and oversees adjuncts among her many duties.We sat down to talk “tech” in nursing and education.

Let’s talk about the changes in technology from when you received your nursing degree as compared to now.

In 1996, there was no simulation integrated in the school I attended. There wasn’t computerized anything. Charting was handwritten and we practiced on each other. When we went into the clinical site, we practiced on real people. There was no simulation technology at all.

When did patient simulation come in to play for Davenport?

CPR in the ‘60s with a mannequin was the first opportunity for the public to really see the use of simulation. It was also used in the military for many years. Davenport has had it for quite a few years now. It is now the standard that most nursing schools are using, but the integration is not standardized across the nursing curriculum. 

How much of a part do sim patients play in Davenport’s nursing program?

We start right away with our students with some form of simulation. We start sophomores right away on vital signs. For example, they start learning heart, lung and bowel sounds, and we can adjust the sim patients using sim pads to teach them what certain conditions sound like. We increase the complexity of the simulations as their education continues.

What sets the Davenport nursing program apart from others?

Our clinical program starts in the sophomore year. Some schools require admission in their junior year, but here at Davenport, nursing students can get accepted as a freshman. Students can come right out of high school and have a seat in the nursing program. There is no wait list, but it’s all very competitive.

We pride ourselves that this program gets the students quickly immersed into what it means to be a nurse. The BSN gives you a broader ability to understand the population, health, the community – they are strong bedside nurses. We feel like we give our students a really strong clinical aspect of learning, and that’s what sets us apart.

Outside of sim patients, how has technology changed in nursing education?

Davenport has specialized degrees here; we’ve always been pro-technology even if you aren’t in a technology field. We utilize animations, case studies and videos. We have the NCLEX online licensure exam that must be passed in order to work as a nurse. We do everything we can with content and training to fully prepare them. The students do video case studies, and everything in the sim lab has a camera and microphones so that they can watch and learn from each other and themselves. Students have a virtual patient in one of our courses and can interact and learn from them. We have smartboards, computers and a high-tech library.  

In the clinical setting, the students are also exposed to and train with electronic medical records from Sparrow Hospital, McLaren and Bronson in Kalamazoo to help them prepare for working with different records in the real world.

Are you aware of tech coming in the future?

More sim mannequin companies are coming out and one thing we are seeing is expanded wireless capabilities. And the features are becoming closer and closer to what a real person is. 

Any final thoughts?

I’m here because I think this program is very strong. We have four campuses that offer nursing across the state of Michigan, and we turn out really strong nurses in the community. I’m really proud of what we do here.

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