I was inspired to teach based on my experiences as a student
All I have ever known is life as a nurse. I’m very lucky to have achieved that dream.
Starting out as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in 1986, I then became a Registered Nurse. Today, I’m a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) in internal medicine, a position I’ve held since 1999.
My role as a nurse has expanded from the exam room to the classroom. I did not set out to become a faculty member, but here I am at the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, where I have served on the faculty since 2003. I’ve been an instructor for almost all the courses offered in the Nurse Practitioner program at the Phoenix-based campus, at the master’s level.
I found there were a lot of people like me
To understand why I wanted to become part of the College of Nursing faculty, it may help to know to know some of my background.
When I pursued my master’s level FNP certificate in the late 1990s, I started my journey at a state school. I found the faculty at that university were so far behind the times: Concepts I learned at the graduate level were things I’d already learned in my studies for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from University of Phoenix, which I earned back in 1992.
So I returned to University of Phoenix. I was among the first group of students in its FNP program, where I ultimately earned my Master of Science in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner in 1999. I wanted to be a part of an institution that required their faculty to be at the top of their game.
That was an important consideration for me because when I was first in nursing school, I found myself struggling to grasp certain concepts that others in my class seemed to understand easily. I found I comprehended things better when it wasn’t based just on traditional methods of learning—reading from textbooks, listening to lectures or writing papers. It was when real situations were introduced within the context of a topic that I more clearly understood concepts.
These experiences as a student inspired me to go back to school—as a faculty member. I wanted to offer alternative methods of content delivery to students. I wanted to explain concepts to students who, like me, had trouble mastering particular concepts through traditional teaching methods. I’ve found that not only do those students learn better, but these methods help reinforce the material for students who already understood it. As an instructor, I’ve discovered there are a lot of people like me for whom real-life instruction makes a significant difference.
Bringing the outside world inside the classroom
Certainly there are benefits to traditional instruction. But to actually hear about how patients talk about their care and what nurses are doing in their daily rounds lends context to the whole learning process. It brings the reality of nursing situations to them as opposed to simply reading about it, as if textbook scenarios happen only to other people. And it brings familiarity to the students when they’re out doing their clinicals.
There’s a huge advantage for them getting this kind of real-world instruction. They’re more able to fit into real situations because we’ve trained them to work in their desired environment through preceptorships within their communities. In fact, according to the hospital training staff for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and preceptors in the community for the FNP program, our nursing students are among the better-trained ones they’ve seen. This training enables our students to potentially start at a position higher than entry level upon graduation.
I’m proud to say that the FNP students at our Arizona campuses have a very high percentage of a passing rate on the national certification exam—and that’s on the first exam attempt. We have a strong FNP program at the four campuses in our state that offer the 2½-year program.
Much of what I teach is based on the daily experiences I have in my private house-call practice. I’m learning, leading and experiencing what’s happening right now in my field, and I share that with my students. I tell them about the technology available that I’m using in my practice. Because I also work for the Board of Nursing as an Advanced Practice Nurse Consultant, I bring public safety concepts into classroom.
Just like reality, but better
Our undergraduate LPN-to-BSN program includes a Nursing Simulation Lab. Its immersive simulation training is designed to educate students in experiential learning environment. Actual scenarios are reenacted, allowing us to talk about each one and explain why certain steps were taken, what could be done differently and what to correct. It’s a great way to learn from mistakes without harm to the public.
Some students come in with preconceived ideas about the lab because they’re not sure what to expect or how much they’re really going to learn from a simulation. But then, they discover what a wonderful experience it is. They can learn while not hurting actual patients. It’s all about learning from each other’s mistakes and successes.
More than nurses
As a certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-C), I appreciate what University of Phoenix College of Nursing is doing to ensure that nurses of all types who enroll in our programs are highly trained in the current practices. What is needed now, though, is to educate the public about the different levels of nurses, and what they actually do at each level. There’s an assumption we’re all the same. But nurses practice differently.
As nurses, we have a role in distinguishing ourselves and letting the public know what we do to serve them, and how we do it. We need to answer the call by the Institute of Medicine for nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and training, to achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression. Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health care professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.
I’d like to challenge other nurses to increase their level of knowledge through advanced education, and to improve the profession to support nursing as a whole. All of this can contribute to elevate the role of the nurse leader, and show how valuable and unique the nurse really is. A nurse can change the world to become a better place—I’m very passionate about that. I love the nursing profession. I don’t know what I would do if I could not be a nurse.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/