When Cynthia M. Gonzalez and Mary McMahon Bullis applied for the American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GSNA) Digital Innovators program, they had no clue to what extent this acceptance and training would take them. The GNSA Digital Innovators program allows future nursing faculty to discover and create new digital/mobile technology teaching methods.
Gonzalez and McMahon Bullis are students in UW-Milwaukee’s PhD in Nursing (online) program and met in May 2017 at the online PhD student orientation. The two had reservations to stay on campus in Sandburg Hall while in Milwaukee. After seeing each other at the dorms and again when they arrived at orientation, they connected and went to Kopps Custard that night for dinner. From then on, the two provide support to one another and collaborated on projects, such as the GSNA Digital Innovators.
Gonzalez, a PhD in Nursing student at UWM, has a background in orthopedic nursing and post-masters in informatics. Gonzalez has experience in nursing education and is the Director of Nursing Education at Roosevelt University at the College of Science, Health and Pharmacy in Chicago, IL. Gonzalez’s PhD work focuses on osteoporosis in Latino women, which incorporates her background in orthopedic and med-surg as a clinical nurse specialist.
McMahon Bullis is a masters prepared cardiac care nurse coordinator with a long history as an electrophysiology nurse, working with patients and their devices and critical care nursing. As a Navy veteran, she went back for her PhD in nursing to impact the profession of nursing, and to explore education and theory with practice. McMahon Bullis’ PhD work is on the psycho-social needs of individuals with defibrillators while melding technology and theory into practice.
The support system between these two students extends beyond the classroom. In Fall 2020, the two submitted the Digital Innovators program application while Gonzalez’s father passed away. In November, they received their acceptance, learning they were one of only 15 teams in the United States selected for this program.
Over the last year, the two have worked together learning how to integrate Apple products into nursing education, providing a theory-based, meaningful interaction for the product user. The students developed an Apple ebook, “Building a Gerontology Student Portfolio: Nurse Educator Resource.” Partnering the nursing educator competencies and AACN Baccalaureate Essentials, the two were able to bring innovation to fill a much-needed nursing education gap.
The program provided technical training, mentorship from an Apple Distinguished Educator under the guidance of AACN. McMahon Bullis explained, “The people we worked with from AACN and Apple were so willing to share their knowledge, and they wanted to ensure we worked to advance nursing science.” Gonzalez shared, “I’ve learned the power of collaboration. So many ideas were shared that influenced my research profile and my teaching role. I was able to change Roosevelt’s entire research class to be on a digital platform and fully accessible.”
McMahon Bullis and Gonzalez wanted to share that they encourage others to apply for the next GSNA program as it was a fantastic opportunity. Gonzalez closed by sharing, “UWM has a foundational principle in their PhD program that encourages students to learn and grow. Working on innovation within the classroom has allowed us to be confident working with other students and allowed us to work on this project and be creative together actively.”