How I am spending the 2018 winter break.

Time for a deep breath

This blog goes a bit dormant when I am back in USA. I returned to my teaching job at an Associate Degree nursing program in Tampa Florida where I carried an ambitious schedule. I was still commuting from Tampa to the Plant City campus, where I taught one section each of the three main courses of the first semester.  Here in Tampa I spent the first six Saturdays helping out in the skills lab of our evening/weekend group. I brought two clinical groups to one of the largest most diversified medical centers in the state.

wednesday group at LRMC orintation

One of my Fall 2018 clinical groups. I think I have had more than a hundred clinical groups in the years  I have been teaching.

I was busy.

Ivory Tower

Over Christmas break I am finally able to be back in Ivory Tower mode. Til now, every time I have had a break I go to Nepal, or to the Pine Tree State (Maine) where one of my daughters is fixing up a house with my son-in-law. I was there last Christmas during a cold and dark time, in a partially-heated building, living like somebody “North of the Wall” in Game of Thrones.

march 14 snow

View out the glass doors in Maine, December 2017. I was working on my daughter’s house for a couple of weeks. One night about a foot of snow came down. We needed to shovel a path to the barbecue.

This time I decided not to go anywhere, and to simply catch up on things.

For spring semester I will still teach the classroom and skills lab of the groups in Plant City, but cut back to just one clinical group which will be here in Tampa. For three days a week, my commuting time will now be much shorter. This ought to simplify my life. Click here for a short video of me inspecting my student’s work at clinical.


Our program uses a computer-based course software system as all colleges do nowadays. Ours is “Canvas.” When it is realizing its potential, Canvas is an amazing online guide, with a grade book, discussion boards, a syllabus, a set of calendars one for  each course, and a smartphone app that allows everyone to view assignments and get reminders to keep on track. The problem with Canvas is that it is only as good as the content that is uploaded to it. In the past semesters I usually returned to Tampa just a short time before the upcoming first day of classes, then threw it together in a general way. I uploaded the bare bones  of the courses I taught, and I added more as the weeks of the semester ticked by.  When you teach the same course for consecutive semesters, you can export the previous  content to the new course. In this way my Canvas pages accumulated a volume of content that kept the students mostly happy.

canvas computer calendar

This is the calendar interface for one month Spring Semester 2019. All the ingredients are right there on the list. There are likely to be some students for which the sight will provoke an anxiety attack. We will help them get over it and mobilize their study time.

I began to prepare for Spring 2019 by importing my content,  giving myself a nice starting point. After all, the bones of the course are dictated by the overall curriculum and I already know what we will discuss in Week 11 for example. What is new is that I am taking ample time to enhance the content in such a way as to provide the clearest possible directions to the students for them to meet all our target outcomes.

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa

Last semester we changed from the second edition of our main text to the third, but I did not revise all the reading assignments according to the new pagination. We adopted a new companion workbook but I only assigned things from it for part of the time. These days I am going through lists of reading assignments and double-checking to eliminate or minimize the inaccuracy. Looking at the textbooks myself to make sure I can refer the students to various places they need to go. Maximizing workbook assignments and pro-actively thinking of ways to do in-class exercises to support each one. Also, finding relevant videos to accompany the class sessions.

The Teacher’s “Craft”

This type of planning is what we call the craft of educational design from a classroom management viewpoint. It seems simple an elegant for the student but when you take it apart it has depth that may not be immediately apparent. I am not a fan of detailed work like this but it was overdue. When  I assign the students to go to page 2494 and find exemplar 36A,  they will find the page number matches the location.  I have a library of PowerPoints to accompany the course, and a supply of activities we can do in class as group work.

It will be grand!

Video, Narrated PowerPoint, etc

YouTube is still somewhat new, but it seems as though many people have uploaded bits and pieces of video that amplify or clarify areas of content that we all share. These days there is so much video available, that if I go through the trouble to find it and evaluate it ( “curate it” in the lingo of today’s youth) I can string it together so that there is a reference lecture on video to accompany just about every section.  When I add each  link  I am careful to include the length of the video. When the students access the smartphone app, they will be able to call up a number of pre-recorded files, so they can listen while driving, or also watch the videos anywhere they may go, to fit whatever time is available.  The on-line component is so strong that it is approaching the level of an online course. With any luck the classroom portion will take it up a notch.

Guest Faculty

Renowned Faculty with Guest Lecturers from Australia, Kerala India, New York City, and California. I may be the lead teacher in the three courses, but now the virtual course faculty includes about fifty other experts on various other topics, delivering well-researched  material with often excellent graphics. It frees up our face-to-face meeting time so we can discuss the material and apply it, instead of transmitting facts and things to memorize.

Do you need an example? this clicking on this video of  nurse doing a head-to-toe assessment.  We spend weeks teaching the components of this and I always end up modeling how to do it. There needs to be a system but it requires the nurse or nursing student to be interactive. In the video, the nurse hits all the major points. Not only that, but the same people re-did the video with a voice-over play-by-play worthy of Major League Baseball. Sharing this with the students will point the way for them. And yes, this shows a big part of what hospital nurses do all day.

Bicycle etc

I am also taking time to relax, just enjoying my flat. I decided to splurge and get myself some presents –  a book I wanted, a small white elephant, a spice rack for the kitchen – that sort of thing. It’s the nice weather season in Florida and I am also trying to ride each day.  In about ten days we start the Spring semester. I will be ready!


About Joe Niemczura, RN, MS

These blogs, and my books, and videos are written on the principle that any person embarking on something similar to what I do will gain more preparation than I first had, by reading them. I have fifteen years of USA nursing faculty background. Add to it fifteen more devoted to adult critical care. In Nepal, I started teaching critical care skills in 2011. I figure out what they need to know in a Nepali practice setting. Then I teach it in a culturally appropriate way so that the boots-on-the-ground people will use it. One theme of my work has been collective culture and how it manifests itself in anger. Because this was a problem I incorporated elements of "situational awareness" training from the beginning, in 2011.
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2 Responses to How I am spending the 2018 winter break.

  1. Alice Werbel says:

    Hi Joe, I just read your blog post -how you’re spending winter break. I noted you mentioned virtual guest lecturers from remote places which included Kerala. I just returned from Kerala visit and sure wished I had had a contact there to get a glimpse into the hospital world there. Kerala, as you likely know, is the most prosperous Indian state, and has highest literacy rate in country. Its medical care is also considered superior relative to the rest of India. While It is still sufferring effects of summer floods, there is much resilience.

    Would you kindly share with me who was your virtual course faculty from Kerala? Wishing you a healthy, fulfilling 2019!

    Alice Werbel, FNP Norwich, VT (I was at Dartmouth, but missed your talk here a few years ago)

    • Hi Alice!

      I too have been to Kerala, in 2014. And, I have met any persons from there….. But alas, I do not have a contact to share. This does not mean that I was lying when I said I had guest lecturers from there –

      How I got those “guest lecturers” was by surfing YouTube and finding the best pre-recorded videos I could find that dealt with topics from among those in our course. I uploaded fifty links ( or more) and I would have to go through them to send you each one. On YouTube, some of these lectures may be five years old. In my judgement they are still relevant.

      I wrote a couple of blog entries about Kerala at the time, on my other blog. One was about the “backwaters” –

      and the other was about the ferry system.

      I am sorry I can not give you much more info. My advice is to just walk into the local hospital next time, likea saleman making a “cold call.”

      Tell me where you are located…


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