A Map to Success

After more than 30 years in the nursing profession, Patricia Schmehl joined the nursing faculty at RACC and now is celebrating her first published book, Introduction to Concept Mapping in Nursing.

"I started thinking, 'How can students best learn?' You see the differences in how students interpret and apply concepts," she said. "We all have different learning styles, so how can we as teachers show them what it is to critically think."

Patricia said the entire process took about 18 months. The book will soon be released and available at the RACC Bookstore, in Yocum Library and online retailers Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and jblearning.com.

While Patricia said the idea of concept mapping in general isn't new, it is relatively new to the nursing field. At its most basic level, a concept map is a diagram that shows the relationship among different concepts. Concept mapping is a graphic teaching and learning tool that helps students learn and study by developing critical thinking skills.

RACC students first engage with concept mapping during their Nursing 200 course in the fall semester of their second year. Patricia admits students don't necessarily like it, but they do learn to appreciate its value.

"Concept mapping is a lot of work for them since it becomes a nursing care plan," said Patricia, who was born and raised in Reading. "It's based on a patient they worked with, so it reinforces and layers information. They comprehend better and learning takes on new meaning."

Patricia has been part of RACC's Nursing faculty for almost 10 years and first came to the College as an adjunct instructor. She was working as a Nurse Practitioner at Berks Cardiology when she saw an advertisement. She said once she started teaching, she really liked the idea of being able to blend her love of nursing with her desire to teach.

"Teaching was always my focus," said Patricia. "When I was working in the hospital, it was working with patients and their families to continue their treatment regimen when they went home. Now, to teach students and the future generation of nurses is great."

Patricia always had an interest in nursing, stemming from seeing older relatives in hospitals and how kind the nurses were to them. She attended St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing, then went on to Kutztown for her bachelor's degree and Seton Hall for her Master's degree.

"When I was looking at getting my Master's degree, there weren't a lot of places to go for an online program," Patricia said. "I was working full-time and I had kids, so online was easier."

Patricia said she saw the writing on the wall relating to advanced degrees for nurses, which is what spurred her to pursue a position as a Nurse Practitioner. "I knew the transition would come and that they would be mandating a bachelor's or even a Master's degree," she said. "Plus, I wanted to get into more advanced practice and be able to give back more."

Although Patricia feels a sense of accomplishment with this book, she said she has plans for another – this time focused more on the instructors. To learn more about Patricia and concept mapping, visit her website at www.nursingconceptmapping.com.