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What experience can teach

Associate Professor Mercy Bashir ’08 talks about the impact of experiential learning in the classroom

Mercy Bashir ’08 immigrated to the United States from Kenya at 19 years old and enrolled in the National Guard to give back to her new country and gain professional experience. Not long after, the terrorist attacks of September 11th occurred, and Bashir deployed to Iraq to serve as a combat medic for medical evacuations. “My experience was challenging, but it served as an introduction to medical care at its best,” she recalls. “It’s when I realized I wanted to pursue a life in healthcare.” 

Now an associate professor and a dual licensed nurse practitioner in adult gerontology and mental health at the School of Nursing, Bashir is educating the next generation of healthcare professionals. In her courses, she makes sure to provide hands-on learning opportunities for her students. “Translating clinical information in a classroom environment can be difficult, which is why experiential learning is so important,” she says. “A cornerstone of my classes are simulation exercises, so that students have the chance to practice caring for patients in a realistic environment.” Bashir’s students also participate in clinicals, review case studies, and complete a variety of problem-based learning activities—developing the capabilities and confidence to begin their nursing career. 

For Kristen Chianca ’24, a junior nursing student who currently works as a school nurse and pediatric home care provider, the value of experiential learning is immeasurable. “Having treated patients during the early months of COVID-19, I deeply appreciate the learning that occurs during simulation exercises,” she says. “Everything I encounter in a course that emphasizes experiential learning prepares me for the uncertainty of a professional healthcare environment—it’s a critical benefit of attending Salem.” 

Bashir appreciates the rich diversity at Salem State, which is home to many first-generation students and immigrants like herself, and recognizes the vital role of funding in advancing the university’s mission to train future health leaders. “Contributing to Salem State is extremely important because your gift doesn’t just support the school—it supports the nurses who will one day work in the hospitals and health clinics here in the North Shore,” she says. 

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