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Webinar Series Enhances Healthcare Skills, Spurs Student Engagement

A healthcare student sitting at a table, participating in a webinar on her laptop.

When two members of Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) academics team identified a gap in resources for health professions students, they took action.

Survey responses from SNHU’s Annual Global Campus Student Satisfaction Survey noted that a number of students shared a desire for more interaction with instructors in their online courses. Some wanted live instruction. Others wanted webinars. And some were just seeking quality time with classmates. Laurie Lewis, clinical faculty coordinator, and Dr. Meredith O’Hara, associate dean of health professions, were determined to meet these needs.

So, Lewis and O’Hara created HP CARES: the Health Professions Creating Awareness & Real-world Engagement Series. It was the first of its kind for the healthcare programs at SNHU: a series of live webinars led monthly by experts in the field. Each session was designed to give students face-to-face interaction with instructors and exposure to career opportunities. And perhaps most importantly, students left with applicable knowledge for the classroom and beyond.

In other words, exactly what students were looking for.

A Range of Speakers: From Faculty to the FBI

Dr. Meredith O'HaraMost speakers were SNHU faculty members, who were referred to Lewis and O’Hara by deans of the healthcare programs. Session topics included improving operations at healthcare facilities, healthcare bias and inequities, hospital and health network leadership and many others. Each topic was chosen with one question in mind: What is most helpful to students?

Other speakers, like Alexis Carpinteri and Brian Waterman, were sourced externally — in their case, from the FBI. Carpinteri and Waterman have worked in partnership with Lewis on a number of student-facing initiatives at SNHU for several years. Their HP CARES session focused specifically on FBI healthcare fraud investigations.

In post-seminar survey answers, session themes seemed to land well with attendees, and were part of why the series was successful.

“The topics discussed resonated with me,” one student said. “Being able to hear from professionals was a great experience,” said another.

For some students, a personal connection was their biggest takeaway.

“My favorite part of HP CARES was the speaker sharing about her academic journey, and overcoming challenges during that journey,” said one student.

“My personal healthcare journey has had a few turns and bumps in the road,” said another. “So, my favorite part was the speaker telling her story.”

A Series with Students at the Center

Data collected from the webinars aligned with this feedback. Over the seven talks held between Sept. 2022 and Apr. 2023, SNHU students from nearly every state in the U.S. attended live. Sessions were recorded, too, so other students could tune in at a time that was convenient for them.

Laurie Lewis with the text Laurie LewisOf the live participants, 98.3% said the seminars expanded their understanding of the healthcare field and career options, while 98.2% reported the sessions felt aligned with their coursework. With this data in mind, Lewis and O’Hara knew the series needed to continue.

They set to work on HP CARES 2023-2024.

Their hopes for this next round? Increased participation, more students asking questions and more repeat attendees, or students who attend multiple talks throughout the series. Knowing that sessions between 4-7PM EST had the highest attendance rates, the new series will be held exclusively within this timeframe.

As for topics, Lewis and O’Hara remained mindful of what students want and need.

“We’re trying to weave in DEI,” O'Hara said. “We’ve also taken student responses from this year’s surveys and incorporated speakers to fulfill some of those requests.”

When students asked for a seminar about health information management, for example, Lewis and O’Hara made it the first one in the new series. Other session topics include hospital leadership, law and ethics in healthcare and modernizing senior centers in rural communities.

What Success Looks Like

As they reflect on its first iteration, Lewis and O’Hara identified what, specifically, went well.

“When students are in a session, it seems to help them build confidence in what they want to do with their education,” Lewis said. “The resources provided by our speakers have been invaluable to students in regards to time management, networking and career development.”

As the creators of this series, Lewis and O'Hara describe the results as rewarding, and their passion for this work excites them for what's to come.

The next installation of HP CARES will run Sept. 2023-Apr. 2024. All SNHU students are welcome to attend.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU healthcare program that can best help you meet your goals.

Abigail Mark ’23G is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.