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Shauna Acker with husband
Shauna Acker meets needs of nontraditional students as an online instructor

Online instructor meets needs of working, nontraditional students

Shauna Acker, DNP, worked as an intensive care unit nurse for 15 years before becoming a certified nurse-midwife. She currently practices at Montrose Memorial Hospital while also teaching online courses for Colorado Mesa University. “Working in clinical practice keeps me current on clinical skills — you can’t teach if you’re not current,” said Acker, an assistant professor of nursing.

Acker teaches classes for CMU’s RN to BSN program, as well as courses in the doctor of nursing practice: family nurse practitioner program. This semester she’s teaching health assessment and promotion, pathophysiologic concepts and a lab. Each class is 100 percent online.

Acker said nursing education is growing more and more reliant on online instruction to meet the needs of graduate students who are often working professionals.

“Teaching online brings its own unique challenges that require a broad skillset to address,” said Acker. “You have to be able to connect with students — that’s the goal. You have to use creativity and technology to engage students. My classes are full of multimodal technologies to try and meet all students’ needs.”

Acker graduated from the University of Kansas, where she earned a master’s degree in nursing and certificate in nurse midwifery before continuing with her education, earning a doctorate of nursing practice and a post-master’s nursing education degree from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. She is currently working toward an additional post-master’s degree to become a family nurse practitioner.

Acker completed her graduate teaching practicum at CMU before joining the faculty full-time three years ago.

“I love online teaching,” she said. “To be able to connect with students, many of whom are adult learners with families and careers, is exciting and rewarding. I am helping them achieve their future goals and am actively promoting and growing the nursing profession.

As a certified nurse midwife, Acker is accustomed to being available at odd hours — an important trait for faculty teaching online. She makes a point to reach out to students who might need assistance at night. “As online education is asynchronous, students may also be working a wide range of hours and may need unique and alternative times to regular office hours,” she said. It is not uncommon for Acker to meet with her students over the weekend or in the middle of the night should the need arise.

The Kansas City, Mo., native, moved to the West Slope seven years ago as a member of the Colorado Health Service Corp. to help bridge the gap of primary care providers in rural Colorado. Acker felt such sense of community that she has remained years after her contract ended.

“Working at CMU has been so rewarding,” she said. “I look forward to many more years working with our amazing student population and nursing faculty.”

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