Why did you seek this role?
As a nurse on the maternal/child unit, I realized that I enjoyed discharge teaching and ended up doing all the discharge teaching for all my colleagues. When it was time to teach infant care classes on our unit, I was the only enthusiastic volunteer. When students were on the nursing unit, I seemed to have an unusually higher number of them assigned to me and my patients than my colleagues. During one trying night where I tripped over yet another student (3 were around the bassinet), I asked the instructor why she kept giving me so many students?!!! Her response was, “I know who to give them to.” She went on to say, “If you do not go into nursing education, you are missing your calling.” That statement stuck with me. I reflected on the importance of patient teaching in achieving positive health outcomes and how nurses could be more effective in meeting patient needs. I also realized that I enjoyed working with students and did spend more time than my colleagues teaching them how to do a newborn assessment or palpate a fundus, for example. I began to think about going back to school for my MSN degree. I decided to pursue both the Community Health and Nursing Education tracks which aligned nicely with my two areas of interest – patient teaching and teaching nursing students.
How did you become a Nurse Educator?
While working on my MSN degree, I stitched together 5 jobs to be able to accommodate my class and clinical schedule. I became an adjunct clinical faculty member and loved it. The experience reinforced that I was going in the correct direction with my career. Students seemed to like working with me and they seemed to learn a lot. Once I saw how fulfilling it was to see that lightbulb go on in a student’s brain, I was hooked. Students go on to help more patients than I could ever help by myself working as a nurse. I can amplify my patient impact by teaching the next generation. Can you think of anything better?
What do you like about your role?
Everything! I love the energy and enthusiasm that students have. I taught Fundamentals of nursing for over 20 years. It is incredible to see the excitement about learning everything! It is rewarding to help students terrified of their first patient interaction or their first injection and then see their confidence at the end of the semester but even more at graduation. It is remarkable and awe-inspiring to see and be part of this transformation. What a gift to be able to help alleviate anxiety and build someone’s confidence. I think most students who have ever had me as a professor know that I want their success and am in their corner. Their trust in me is humbling too.
If I could change anything, I wish it was easier to stay informed about the rest of their individual careers. I cannot tell you how much I love it when a student “friends” me on Facebook after they graduate. I am seeing former students win awards, pursue graduate education, become leaders in their health systems, lead community initiatives. It is phenomenal to know that I had some small part in that success. I now have some students from early in my career becoming nursing faculty now too! I did not think anything could be more rewarding than to see a student’s success but seeing them go on to become a nursing faculty member is even more incredible.
Recently, one of my former students who had kept in touch about her career reached out to me and asked me to visit her as she had cancer and was entering hospice. As a former hospice nurse herself, she wanted to do a life review and wanted to speak with me about her time in nursing school and the impact that I had on her life and career. As we reminisced about her classmates, she talked about various strategies I used in class and mnemonics to remember nursing content. She still remembered a technique I shared in lab to prevent needlesticks and told me that she and her friends from school STILL talk about these memories decades later. She even told me that “Fink” was her answer to the “favorite teacher” security question we all are asked so often on websites. Wow! What a profound experience! While one typically hopes to make an impact, to be significant enough to someone to be present at the end of their life, will forever stand out and remind me why I try to give my very best to my students every day and that I am in exactly the right place where I should be.
Best moment as an educator?
There are too many to select just one. All my students know that I like to make learning fun and I love to laugh. I have shared so many laughs with students in and outside of class. I have enjoyed celebrating their accomplishments with them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a nurse educator!
Advice for someone who is considering it?
Come talk to me! If you are unsure, try starting as an adjunct clinical faculty member. If you have not gotten specialized education for the nurse educator role, take a nurse educator certification course to learn more about the role and how to be proficient. Trust me, you will want to know how to write an effective NCLEX-style test item! Go back to school, get the advanced degree to widen your potential scope of teaching practice. It will be worth it.