We are delighted to announce that Nancy Severance, MSN, RN, is the recipient of the 2012 Carrington College ‘Commitment to Teaching Excellence’ award for Nursing. Nancy is Team Leader for the Practical Nursing program at our Boise, ID, campus.
Nancy has been a nurse for over 40 years and a nurse educator for 15 years; she has been part of our Carrington family for 6 years. Nancy was nominated for this award by Danielle Horras, Executive Director of the Boise campus.
Danielle, why did you feel Nancy was especially deserving of this award?
“Some teachers may get settled in their ways after many years, but not Nancy! She’s the epitome of a life-long learner, and in this respect, serves as a role model for all our students. She is constantly searching for new knowledge, reading the best evidence for current nursing practice and nursing education. And she consistently shares best practices with colleagues, helping us to continually improve our delivery of nursing education. Her colleagues share my admiration; one of her peers said, and I quote – ‘It is a privilege to teach with her.’ ”
Many congratulations Nancy, how does it feel to win an award like this?
“Quite frankly, it just made my day! It made a day when I was really tired so much better! It put a hop in my step. I don’t need a lot of people telling me I’m doing a really good job, but every so often it helps to have your peers say ‘you’re doing the right thing, you’re doing well.’ It made me feel appreciated, and that meant a whole lot.”
Having been a nurse and an educator for four decades, what first inspired you to teach?
“I kind of fell into being a clinical instructor in a long term care facility many years ago; I discovered that I enjoyed mentoring and helping to build the next generation of nurses. I realized that by being a nurse educator I could impact more students than I could one on one as a preceptor. I also believe that those who have experience and a willingness to share it should do so. I just knew that teaching was something I wanted to do.”
Was there a moment when you knew that teaching was the career for you?”
“There are a couple of instances that come to mind. Early in my teaching career I’d be teaching a difficult concept or topic and all of a sudden the students would say ‘oh…I get it!’ – that always made me smile. Another time back in the late 1970s at a smaller college, I took students into long-term care (which is never that popular), and out of a graduating class of 15, 12 of them chose to go into long term care as a nurse. Many of those students continued in long-term care and became managers, directors of nursing and even nurse administrators. That was when I knew that this is what I needed to do.”
After 40 years, what still motivates you to teach?
“It’s the opportunity to work every day with individuals who want to provide care and safety to others. It’s seeing the look in my students’ eyes when they get it, when all of a sudden they realize that they can succeed, and they know they can make a difference. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
This award recognizes your own excellence; in your opinion, what values does an instructor need to excel?
“I think that they need to have integrity. They also need to understand that they don’t know everything and that they can learn something new every day; that they can learn from their students. They also need to have a willingness to be ‘in the moment’ with their students; to get to know where their students are coming from and meet them at that point in their life – and then bring them forward from that point. That’s what a good educator does, no matter what age group they teach.
Instructors also need to try new things and change with the times. Teachers always used to be thought of as a ‘Sage on a Stage’. But things move so fast, and change so quickly now that we can’t always know everything. Teachers have to be willing to say to students – ‘I don’t know, but let’s find out together.’ ”
What techniques do you use to engage your students in their own learning?
“I tell my students that I know they can learn this topic, that I know they can be successful. I set my standards high; if I tell them it’s ok to get a C, then that’s all they’re going to achieve. I’ve seen students rise to higher levels, even though it might take them a little more time. Sometimes when I see something that tells me they’re going to be great, I try to push them farther than they ever thought they could go.
I also try to recognize the different styles of learning. I share things from my own clinical experience, sharing something that will help students see a concept. Another technique that has been useful is getting them to discuss what’s going on in their personal life and helping them relate lessons learned to clinical scenarios. All students have life lessons and that impacts their learning and their caring.
You have to continually find new ways to engage a group of students; what worked for one group might not work for the next. Teachers have to make sure that they are involving students in their learning, that they are engaged in ‘active learning’. Having a teacher just stand out front with words flowing out of their mouth does not work; the students need to relate, and be able practice with their own hands. In my experience, one of the best ways to get students to learn is for them to work together on scenarios – have 3 or 4 of them work to solve a problem together before we review as a larger group.”
When you get home at the end of a long day, what makes a good day for you?
“A good day can be when at least one student has that ‘aha’ moment when they get it! A great day is if the whole class has that moment, but when at least one gets it, I know I’ve made a difference – if only for that one student that day.
A good day is when one of my graduates calls me to tell me they passed their Boards, or when one calls to tell me that they started an IV at work today and they heard my voice in their head over and over saying ‘It’s ok, calm down, you can do this.’ That’s when I know that, by golly, I made a big difference.”
You obviously love what you do, summarize why?
“You know, we don’t become nurses, or nurse educators, because we want to make a lot of money. We go into it because we want to make a difference. I’ve always wanted to make my little corner of the world better, but I can’t do it alone. But I can do it by teaching students how to become better nurses, and better people.”
Our heartfelt thanks and congratulations on this award Nancy. Your continued dedication to the profession and our students is truly appreciated. Your individual qualities as a nurse educator are recognized in this “Commitment to Teaching Excellence” award. Your techniques do inspire your students’ intellectual curiosity, but they also motivate your colleagues and peers. Your work continues to make a positive impact on both the lives of your students and your wider community, meaning you truly have made your little corner of the world a better place.
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