Medical Surgical Assistant Professor: What the Heck Am I Doing?

by: Vonda H. Boone, RN, MSN-NE, CMSRN

As a seasoned nurse for over 30 years, I was excited to begin a new chapter in life and finally realized the dream of being an educator at the university level. Applications were made to several colleges and universities before landing a job in a well-known university in Northeast Louisiana. Excitement built up inside as the new journey began. My nerves just about oppressed the entire opportunity before it ever began.

This story is from the standpoint of a medical-surgical (med-surg) nurse transitioning into new educator at the university level and how my experience is now benefiting others.

Back in 1985, my journey started as a small town farm girl who had no clue what life was about to hand her. I received notice that I had been accepted to LPN school. Just a few short weeks later, this young 19 year old started an adventure that has yet to have its ending. After falling in love with the nursing profession, my success was non-negotiable. I had found my calling and pressed forward without any doubts of what I wanted out of life.

Vonda H. BooneAs an LPN, the first job I took was as a med-surg nurse. Feelings of fear and simply adjusting to the career choice were difficult. The job was tough and it being the first job I ever had made it even tougher. Eventually, I adjusted and the job began to get a bit more comfortable. After a few months, I received a phone call from a hospital where I had done clinical while in LPN school. An offer was made for a position in the newborn nursery and I accepted. Med-surg was left behind for tiny little humans.

I remained in this setting for several years. After ten years as a LPN, in 1996, I completed registered nurse (RN) school at the associate degree level. Promotion to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was accepted. After 14 years in nursery/NICU it was time to take a couple of years off from nursing to concentrate on my small children.

After two years of being a stay-at-home mom, boredom set in and nursing was longed-for once again. A job was taken at a nearby hospital on the Acute Rehab floor. Med-surg nursing had wiggled its way back into my life as a nurse. Around six months after taking this job, a move to North Carolina took place. I took a job on the med-surg floor of a local hospital as a floor nurse. Thus begins the rest of my story.

After working for a couple of years on med-surg, the opportunity was presented to me for a charge nurse position. I accepted the job and new responsibilities came with the job. Now, not only did the function of bedside nurse remain, but I began to function as leader and teacher with this new position. Two years following my promotion to charge nurse, the med-surg supervisor position became available and my teaching skills were expanded. I began to teach in classroom environments and to work with the simulated mannequins.

The enjoyment of teaching others from both experience and about new evidence-based practice became a love and began new yearnings within me to further the nursing career that began so many years prior.

Soon, the promotion to med-surg manager was offered to me when the manager took a job in nursing administration. Eagerness to do a good job put me on a path of learning everything possible about being a med-surg manager. New responsibilities came with the job and some of those changes were not easy to make but they were made because they were necessary.

Administration made it mandatory for all nurse managers to have a master’s degree in order to keep the positions we held. Thus began the next journey into furthering my career as an educational instructor.

As a manger, nursing school for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) was started and completed in 2014. After taking four months off, the Masters of Science in nursing (MSN) school began. As a manager, I was allowed to specialize in a concentration for my MSN. Most managers were specializing in administration or informatics.

I chose nursing education as my concentration. As a bedside nurse that had transitioned into management, the love of teaching throughout this transition is what “put the nail in the coffin” so-to-speak.

The enjoyment gained over the years educating fellow nurses started a hunger deep-down inside of me to pursue an education degree. It was at this point a MSN in nursing education was started and this journey was completed in 2017. Which brings my story line to present day.

A move back to my home state of Louisiana took place for personal reasons. I could get a job in nursing at any of the area hospitals without issue due to the experience I held.

However, the desire to teach was strong and so I began to submit applications for open positions in local colleges and universities. A few interviews were conducted and several rejections were given due to no experience at the academic level.

My determination was strong not to give up. I contacted the local university nearest home and observation of classroom lectures was able to be set up.

The ability to sit and listen to lectures made way for me to interact with teachers and with the director of the program. After sitting in on two 3 hour lectures, it was evident that education was exactly where I wanted to be.

A few months went by and nothing developed. The next semester began and the uncertainty that any hiring would be done after the semester started was disappointing. I looked at other job openings at hospitals and other facilities and just when applications were about to be put in, the call came for not only a job teaching but a full-time 9-month position was offered. The “yes I accept” could not have jumped from my vocal cords any faster.

Thrilling is an understatement of the feelings running through my mind and soul. In a few short weeks the job began and then the next and current chapter of my life began.

The first day on the job the thought, “Oh, my goodness, what have I done?” was strong indeed. My nerves were flying like electrical storms through every part of my body.

It was unclear if the right decision had been made. I felt as though I was straight out of nursing school the first time. I was assigned to level 3 med-surg lecture and clinical. I was a little overwhelmed because I thought they would likely start me at the first level due to my inexperience as a teacher.

However my 30 years plus of nursing experience gave me somewhat of a boost. The team consisted of four other instructors who all had been with the university for several years. I did not know which direction to go and I found myself in conversations about things I did not understand.

Even though I had been in nursing for so long, the lingo between the clinical setting and the university setting was totally different. I heard words that I had no clue what the definitions were.

I was assigned a mentor who had a big med-surg background as well. She gave me assurance that I was going to be just fine. She gave me a little light at the end of my tunnel. This mentor was actually the reason I came back the next day. Had it not been for her, I would have just given up.

I have now been in my position for about 3 months and still have a long way to go but I am learning that my experience in med-surg has been a benefit to myself and the students. As soon as I hit the clinical setting, things began to “click”. I realize the knowledge I have and I am able to transfer that knowledge to my undergraduate BSN students. I realize they must feel more stressed than I ever could at this point in my life.

The students depend on me for information and teaching them is what makes me happy. We all have a responsibility to nurture and grow nurses no matter what our setting.

I am only too happy to share through knowledge and skills with the students. I hope to have a long a fruitful career as a nurse educator to med-surg student nurses and hope to make a difference in their lives by teaching them how to be excellent and caring nurses.

I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to teach at the academic level to consider this path. We are in great need of educators in the nursing field.

My advice, if you are fresh out of school and you want to teach…don’t ever give up! We need you as nurses and as educators.

Vonda H. Boone, RN, MSN-NE, CMSRN
University of Louisiana at Monroe, Assistant Professor

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