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RN, PhD (MS, '88)
2007 Distinguished Alumna
Dr. Stephens, 1988 graduate of the UW MS program and 2007 Distinguished Alumna from the University of Wyoming School of Nursing, has been the Whitney Endowed Chairperson, a funded faculty position located at Sheridan College, and adjunct faculty at the Fay W.Whitney School of Nursing. She provided on-site mentoring, advising, and instruction to Sheridan-area nurses and nursing students who desire their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
What drew you to the career of nurse educator?
In the beginning I chose nursing because it’s a “helping profession”. In the 70s I worked in rural acute care hospital settings with diverse med-surg populations through the lifespan. Because of my innovative and creative nature, and passion for nursing and health “wellness” education, I changed my focus in the 80s. I worked in associate degree and baccalaureate nursing education as an educator and mentor. Nurses and the general public also became target populations for wellness education. In the 90s my husband validated my administrative skill sets and encouraged my work in baccalaureate nursing administration. Building on my administrative and educator competencies, creativity and values, I pursued interests in being an author, entrepreneur and Faith Community Nurse. In the 21st Century I have expanded my educator role to having a major advising role with RN-BSN students and working with certified nursing assistants and other health profession students. I will always use my background to be a personal and professional wellness practitioner – a role we all need to continue to develop. Now for the rest of the story. I’m a Baby Boomer moving toward retirement in June 2012.
How did you prepare for it?
My basic bachelor’s degree in nursing gave me the foundation for nursing practice. I completed graduate degrees in health education and rural and parent-child nursing for credentials required in self-chosen specialty areas for nursing education. National accrediting organizations require a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing to be a nurse educator at the associate and bachelors level. Obtaining a PhD in Education has given me the credentials to obtain faculty and administrative positions at the community college and university level, and expand opportunities to educate and mentor nursing students in master’s degree programs. I am a lifelong learner and have participated in many formal and informal educational opportunities to develop professional competencies.
What do you like the most about this career?
I enjoy being an administrator, educator, advisor, mentor, and life and health coach because of the diversity and because I can “make a difference” in the lives of individuals who begin or continue their career and wellness journeys.
What are the biggest challenges?
Oh, my! Three come to my mind. First, a great challenge facing nursing administrators, educators and practitioners is the public health status crisis. It’s essential that we empower ourselves and our clients/patients to live longer, healthier lives. Second, ongoing technology changes is a challenge in all nursing specialties. I am a digital immigrant so technology has been particularly challenging. Some of you have the advantage of being digital natives which gives you skill sets to respond more quickly to technology requirements. Third, the information explosion facilitates having an evidence-based practice but requires being a lifelong learner and seeking the personal, interpersonal and extrapersonal (environmental) resources to meet the demands of rapidly changing healthcare systems.
What advice would you have for a student interested in this field?
Whether you are interested in nursing administration, education and/or clinical practice, your career in any of these areas can be developed by creating a career portfolio, including a Healthy Career Plan. First, “develop the leader in you” by assessing and diagnosing who you are, where you are, and where you were. Power Keys in this area are to get a clear picture or portrait of yourself (identify your strengths, risk and areas for growth); write a vision and mission statement and core values; have purpose and potential; principles/rules; and be proactive and positive. Second, make your plan by deciding where you are going and how you will get there. Planning Power Keys include setting short-term goals with action prescriptions, and long-term goals; identifying supports with a plan to use them and identifying barriers with a plan to overcome them. Third, as you proceed with implementation of your plan remember to track your progress. Power Keys include being patient, persistent, confident and in control. Give yourself rewards along the way. Fourth, evaluate your progress toward your long-term goals, and the outcomes, to determine if you are on track and what it means to you. You Can Do It!
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