Theresa Turick-Gibson, professor of nursing at Hartwick College, said she never imagined Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, would be speaking in her classroom.
But on the morning of Jan. 17, the senator made a personal visit to her Rural Health Nursing Theory and Practicum class to discuss health and nursing in rural communities.
Turick-Gibson said she called Seward’s office around the holidays to see if one of his aides could pay a visit to the class, an upper-level course offered to nursing students during Hartwick’s January term. When Turick-Gibson found out Seward would personally attend her class, she said, she was impressed.
“For some of the students,” Turick-Gibson said, “this might have been their first time meeting with a legislator of that status. We talked afterward, and they recognized that his coming was a big deal.”
Seward, a 1973 Hartwick graduate, said it was great to have an excuse to get back on campus.
“Anytime I can use my experiences to enrich the lives of current students, I’m happy to do so,” Seward said. “Being in the classroom also keeps me on my toes in terms of answering questions. Young people are a great audience and it’s always enlightening to hear their questions and comments.”
Seward’s lecture was focused on healthcare and nursing in rural communities. Turick-Gibson said her month-long class covers many different aspects that affect rural healthcare, including the economy, poverty, landscape and environment.
Seward is particularly knowledgeable on the topic, Turick-Gibson said, thanks to his experience passing related legislation and his overall grasp on the healthcare issues within his district.
“He’s very aware of what’s going on in healthcare locally because he does a lot in Albany to bring attention to it,” Turick-Gibson said. “He is a very supportive voice for this area.”
Seward said he was happy to speak with the 27-student class about rural healthcare and the unique challenges it entails. He said he spoke about some of the recent initiatives that have helped improve healthcare in the community and other rural healthcare topics. These include a Telemedicine and Mobile Health Technology Fund Initiative that recently received grant funding, school-based healthcare centers, critical access hospitals and a greater use of nurse practitioners in the area, he said.
Turick-Gibson said Seward mentioned the healthcare-provider shortage in the area, asking ‘how can we get them here?’ and ‘how can we get them to stay here?”
Seward said he was encouraged by the class overall and the enthusiasm of the students.
“We’re fortunate in this area to have several great hospitals,” Seward said. “Hopefully some of the students I spoke to will choose to stay around this area and practice. There is a lot of opportunity, as nurses are so critical to healthcare, whether it’s in a hospital or at-home care.”
Turick-Gibson said at least a quarter of her class, made up primarily of juniors, is from the local area, with the remainder hailing from the Albany region and New Jersey. Hartwick nursing graduates often stay in the area because they like the region, Turick-Gibson said, and work at Bassett Medical Center because they are familiar with the system.
Turick-Gibson, who is from downstate, said wherever her students end up, they will likely have patients from rural areas. She said she once had a Roscoe woman get treatment at a facility downstate where she worked.
“You need to understand the patterns, backgrounds and beliefs of a culture before you can treat them,” Turick-Gibson said. “It is important to have that perspective.”