Rose Schecter, PhD, RN, is the associate dean and director of the undergraduate nursing program at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, N.Y. She has been the associate dean since 2000. Her responsibilities include oversight of the more than 1,300 undergraduate students, working with faculty to provide their education in the classroom and clinical setting. Her areas of interest include academic integrity and student comportment
In this Q&A, Schecter reflects on the educator role and its rewards and challenges. She also offers words of wisdom for those who are considering the role.
Q: How has the student profile and Molloy’s undergraduate curriculum changed?
A: The demographics of our student body have changed over the years as nursing is attracting more diverse individuals to the profession. Many students are second career individuals who have been out in the workforce and have decided to pursue nursing, or are individuals new to the profession. Our students run the gamut from traditional high school graduates to 30-something and 40-something men and women.
Our undergraduate curriculum is always evaluated against current practice as well as current literature that addresses pressing issues of the day. Some of those issues are advanced directives, gerontology, genetics and genomics. Revisions are made based on those evaluations. We create a completely new curriculum every several years, which is also driven by NCLEX and professional practice.
Q: Why are students choosing nursing as a career? How can faculty help them in that decision?
A: Some students choose nursing for very practical reasons, often job security. For many of those students, nursing turns out not to be an ideal fit. For those who choose nursing for more traditional reasons, “giving back,” “helping others,” or “making a difference,” the fit is better.
One of my frustrations with our profession is that so often those who pursue nursing and those who are cared for by nurses know little about what nurses do. As a profession we have not educated the public on the crucial role of nurses in helping take care of our society.
Further, we haven’t done a good job of letting students and their families know what it takes to be educated as a nurse. Too often I hear students say, “I didn’t realize how much work there was,” or “I didn’t realize I needed so much science for nursing,” or “I didn’t know how hard this was.” Our role as faculty is to help mentor and advise students and to serve as role models as they progress through their education and ultimately become our colleagues.
Q: What are the rewards and challenges of the job? What words of wisdom can you share with those who want to be nurse educators?
A: The rewards are many. Helping educate the next generation of colleagues is why most individuals remain in academia. The wonderful feeling we get when we see students we have taught, worked with and mentored walk across the stage and receive their nursing pins is the reward. The challenges go without saying when students are not successful and we need to intervene. Clearly the rewards outweigh the challenges.
To those who are considering becoming nurse educators, I would say welcome! The need is pressing since a large number of faculty may be retiring soon. It is a challenging role that requires good theoretical knowledge, strong clinical skills and effective communication, both in the classroom and clinical settings. Learning how to manage a classroom, compose reliable and valid exams, deal with multiple issues, often at once, are just some of the challenges. You are rewarded every time you hear from patients and family members about the difference the nurses you helped educate made in their lives.
Q: What do you say to nurses about continuing with their education to advance themselves, both personally and professionally?
A: Nursing is a learned profession and we need to make it “an essential” that we continue our education. We should never think of ourselves as finished when it comes to our education. There are always new things we need to learn and integrate into our practice and our teaching. To truly be an equal partner at the table with other healthcare professionals, we must be educated beyond a basic level, that is, a baccalaureate degree at the minimum, but preferably beyond that as well.
Q: What are some of the strongest elements of your undergraduate program?
A: In our undergraduate program we continually evaluate our curriculum to make certain it reflects current practice. For example, we have added a second pharmacology course, a psychosocial dimensions of nursing course along with a second semester of adult health to help our students in meeting the changing healthcare needs of our patients and their families.
One of the strongest elements of our undergraduate program is the final capstone experience during the last six or seven weeks of the senior semester. Students are placed in an area of nursing that is of interest to them, either in the two counties of Long Island or in New York City. The real life experience of working one-on-one with an RN for an entire shift during the day, overnight or weekend, is invaluable. The students graduate with a more realistic sense of the work of a nurse and in the important role they play in the health of their patients.