What she overheard changed the course of her career

By Joanie T. Weigel | 10/11/2017

Now she’s a nurse educator and positively influencing nursing’s future.

Group of nursesWanting to make a positive impact on those who choose—or might choose—to become a nurse, she became a nurse educator.

Nursing requires the ability to adapt to life-threatening situations and make decisions quickly. It also requires the ability to anticipate patient needs before adverse events occur.

When I was a novice nurse in the ER, one of the first patients I cared for experienced an acute myocardial infarction (MI). My first thought was, “I’ll go get the nurse” but then remembered, “I am the nurse!” Although I was scared and unsure of my ability to provide proper care, I drew upon knowledge acquired in nursing school and from my preceptor, pulled myself together, and performed safe and effective nursing interventions that resulted in a positive outcome. From that pivotal moment, my nursing leadership journey developed quickly. I wanted to become more than competent; I wanted to become a great nurse.

Joanie T. WeigelShe wanted to make a difference
As I observed more experienced nurses make critical decisions, advocate for patients, communicate with physicians, and de-escalate tense situations with upset patients and families, I desired to become a confident nurse who not only provided expert patient care, but also worked well with physicians and other members of the interdisciplinary team. I wanted to be the nurse who recognized need for change in a given nursing unit or advocated for hospital policy that ensured strong patient outcomes. I wanted to make a difference.

As I gained knowledge and became more experienced, I served as a preceptor and mentor for new nurses. Nurse mentors teach and model behaviors that help ensure that nurses are viewed as integral professionals of the healthcare team. In the ICU setting, I took on rapid response and charge-nurse roles, which gave me the opportunity to further enhance my ability to communicate, prioritize, delegate, and lead.

Before pursuing my master’s degree in nursing education, I was an administrative associate working as a liaison between nursing units and hospital administration. Previously, I had seen nursing from the perspective of a specific unit. The administrative associate role gave me the opportunity to view the overall picture of nursing within the organization. 

Nursing is a profession comprised of various specialties, with each specialty designed to provide expert patient care. Each is unique with regard to policies, staffing concerns, and continuing educational requirements. As an administrative associate, I had the opportunity to work with both novice and experienced nurses.

She decided to become a nurse educator
During one shift, I heard colleagues discussing how they would never encourage anyone to become a nurse. Throughout their conversation, these nurses stated that, if they knew what nursing really entailed, they would not have entered the profession. They became nurses, they observed, because of the romanticized perception often portrayed on television and other media. Later, when they learned what professional nursing really encompasses, they were surprised.

That moment changed the course of my professional career. I would not be telling the truth if I said every shift I worked as a nurse was easy, but I strongly disagreed with the way those nurses described our profession. From then on, I wanted to make a positive impact on those who choose—or might choose—to become a nurse. Desiring to be a nurse leader who would prepare and mentor future nurses, I pursued and obtained a master’s degree in nursing education.

I wanted to have a positive effect on a nursing environment in which the caring and compassion exemplified by Florence Nightingale had evolved into a world of patient satisfaction scores and reimbursement complexities—where nurses felt they spent more time charting than caring for patients and where concerns about staffing needs were dismissed with a glib reference to the ever-increasing nursing shortage.

By helping to create a learning environment where new nurse graduates feel well-prepared to enter the healthcare arena, I hoped to positively influence people not only to enter the profession but also to stay in nursing. By collaborating with my peers in nursing education, I wanted to provide opportunities for students to learn that nursing is a carefully crafted balance of managing the healthcare of multiple patients to achieve positive outcomes while genuinely caring for each as an individual.

For me as a nurse educator, leadership means positively influencing the future of nursing. I want nursing students to feel confident in their ability to make a difference for the patients they care for, the organizations that employ them, and the profession they’ve chosen. I want nurses to be grateful they chose to be nurses. And I hope the nursing students I’ve had the privilege to educate will, when they find themselves needing to care for a patient with an acute MI, be confident in saying, “I’ve got this. I’m the nurse.” RNL

Editor’s note: Joanie Weigel and colleagues will present “Really, Now What Do I Do? A Multiple Patient Simulation to Teach Leadership Skills,” on Tuesday, 31 October, at the 44th Biennial Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. See the Virginia Henderson Global Nursing e-Repository for additional information.

Joanie T. Weigel, MSN, RN, is assistant professor, Division of Nursing, University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota, USA.


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