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The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) has announced Dustin Hicks, Practical Nursing Instructor and Simulation Specialist of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as the 2017 ACTE Region IV Postsecondary Teacher of The Year. This award recognizes the finest career and technical teachers at the postsecondary level who have demonstrated innovation in the classroom, commitment to their students and dedication to the improvement of CTE in their institutions and communities.

Dustin Hicks developed a strong interest in healthcare after losing a grandmother to cancer. After several years of providing patient care in a variety of settings, he noticed that it was not uncommon for nurses to lack a firm understanding of some basic nursing concepts and that often, sub-standard care was being provided. This rekindled an interest in becoming an educator, and in 2005 he joined Meridian Technology Center as a practical nursing instructor where he has led the incorporation of technology in all aspects of the practical nursing curriculum. He facilitated the transformation of the nursing curriculum to a digital format that increased student access to program resources outside of the classroom, and also implemented the use of iPads into the nursing program which provided mobile access to classroom and clinical resources. Furthermore, Hicks has been a leader in developing the use of human patient simulation within the CTE system across the state of Oklahoma. In addition to incorporating simulation into health careers programs at Meridian, he has assisted local medical organizations and emergency medical response agencies in developing multiple training and evaluation scenarios for their employees. Hicks also assisted the Oklahoma Board of Nursing in developing guidelines allowing simulation to be used for a portion of clinical training in nursing education.  Hicks has shared his innovative simulation ideas at state, national, and international conferences and has had two human patient simulator modifications selected by the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL) to be published on the National League for Nursing’s “HomeGrown Simulation Solutions” page of their Simulation Innovation Resource Center website.

The impact of Hicks’ innovations is reflected in the success of Meridian’s Practical Nursing graduates: program completers have scored above the national average on their licensing exams for the last two years. Additionally, data from the last five years reflects that program graduates have a 98 percent NCLEX pass rate, 92 percent job placement, 93 percent employer satisfaction and 98 percent graduate satisfaction. As a result of his simulation knowledge and his impact on nursing education at Meridian, Hicks was promoted to Simulation Specialist in addition to his position as a Practical Nursing Instructor.  Dolores Cotton, Practical Nursing Coordinator at Meridian Technology Center, says, “I have been truly blessed to have Dustin on my faculty and consider him both invaluable and irreplaceable.”

Hicks is one of five finalists for the 2018 national title. The national winner will be announced at the ACTE Awards Banquet, a dinner and award presentation recognizing the best CTE educators in the country. The event will take place on Wednesday evening, December 6, during ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Awards Banquet is sponsored by Express Employment Professionals, the US Army, CareerSafe, Stratasys, and International Baccalaureate.

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