This past year I fulfilled a goal of passing along my knowledge and passion for nursing to students in nursing school. When I was in high school and attempting to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was torn between two interests: nursing and teaching. My mom was a teacher and my aunt was a nurse. Both of them provided me with great insight on their respective careers, but I still felt immense pressure to choose my path. I was accepted into a nursing program and an education program at a few different universities but the decision making process was AGONIZING! In the end, it was my mom who made the decision easy for me, saying, “Why don’t you become a nurse and one day teach the future nurses!”
Perfect! I never thought about having both careers. Since then, it’s been a long-term goal of mine to teach nursing school students, and I finally made that goal a reality this past October.
The requirements to teach vary by school, but typically a PhD is required to teach didactic classes and a Masters Degree is required to teach clinical rotations. Because I have a Masters Degree, I was eligible to teach clinical rotations. Since pediatrics is a specialty niche, it is very challenging for nursing schools to have enough pediatric instructors for the amount of students enrolled. Because of this shortage, I was approached by a few different schools over the years. I chose to teach at Chamberlain College of Nursing where I was assigned a group of seven undergraduate nursing students with our rotation at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital in Hyde Park. We were on the general pediatric and hematology/oncology floor, where we took care of general inpatient medical and surgical problems as well as patients with childhood cancers and blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia.
My first day with the students was terrifying! I was scared of being an impatient teacher and they were terrified to take care of children. Until their clinical rotation with me, they had only taken care of adults. I was so relieved to see their fear, not because I wanted my students to be scared, but because I want my students to have a healthy dose of fear when caring for the child-patient. I had hoped that this fear would make them more cautious when administering medications (a skill that can have detrimental consequences if not taken seriously). Although they still needed a fair amount of hand holding, the students all did quite well. I could instantly identify the students who were destined to work in pediatrics and the ones that had zero interest in working with kids. It was extremely rewarding for me to see the students’ growth over the course of the semester, knowing that they would take our experience with them for the rest of their nursing careers. I spent our lunch hour and post-conference hours recalling numerous personal pediatric stories that would help them to tie-in their experiences on the floor. By the end of the semester, we had all survived and had fun doing it. My students felt more comfortable taking care of kids, and I felt more comfortable guiding them through that process.
Sadly, working two jobs was a little too overwhelming for me, so I decided not to teach this semester. In order to get the enjoyment of teaching without the weekly work commitment, I substitute at Chamberlain when they need help, and I precept NP students. Part of my responsibility as a nurse practitioner is to guide nurse practitioner students while they go through their graduate programs. Many of you have probably met my current NP student, Ashley, and I will be taking another NP student in September (a nurse that I met at Comer Children’s Hospital). If you happen to meet one of my students, please make them feel welcome and at home at Kids First and thank you in advance for your patience in the learning process. After all, someone had to teach all of us once!