By Kelly Bower, MSN/MPH, RN
Exulting in the “Aha!” Moments
When I entered the school’s accelerated BSN program in July 1999, I never imagined that I would eventually find myself at the front of those same classrooms. I still remember my first patient, my first care plan, the intensity of the seven-week classes, and my quest for an answer to the ultimate question: What would I do when I finally earned this degree?
The 13 months passed at lightning speed and in July 2000 I was pinned by my teary-eyed mom. But even before the pinning ceremony, I had begun the MSN/MPH program. While working on these degrees full time, I started a part-time job as a public health nurse at Dayspring Programs, Inc, a community agency that works with women who are in recovery from substance abuse and with children. This was a specialty area I never imagined pursuing and it turned into a six-year experience rich in learning about the challenges faced by the East Baltimore community. It was also where I found my passion for work in urban health and addressing health disparities.
Toward the end of my master’s program, I found myself raving to a School of Nursing faculty member about what a great experience Dayspring would provide undergraduates as a public health clinical site. To my surprise, her response was, “You’re hired.” I was not looking for a job; in fact, the idea of teaching had never entered my mind. But I was in need of post-graduation financial security, so I decided to give it a try and was hired as an instructor at the School of Nursing. The position allowed me to continue my practice at Dayspring three days a week and work as a clinical instructor two days a week.
It was challenging to develop the skill set needed for teaching; after all, I’d been trained as a nurse, not as a teacher. I sought out mentorship from colleagues whose teaching abilities I admired—and I’ve benefited greatly from the wisdom and experience they have shared. During my six years at the school I have moved from clinical teaching to classroom teaching. I have had two clinical practices, and I have realized that I love to teach. I enjoy helping students arrive at “Aha!” moments and find that their enthusiasm and optimism are contagious. I find satisfaction in mentoring students who have the same questions and anxieties I once had as they embark on their journey into nursing. I feel excited and confident about the future of nursing knowing that the students I teach are the professional leaders of tomorrow. They are full of passion and tremendous potential.
During my years at the school, little has changed (though class size has grown in an effort to ameliorate the nursing shortage and the fashion of the nursing student uniform has significantly improved). Spring and summer continue to be times of transition at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Tired, proud, confident students graduate in May and July and fresh, eager, novice students enter in June and September. It is a time when I find myself reflecting on my own professional transitions, the evolution of my career, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Seek out role models and mentorship; it is vitally important. However, understand that nursing is a flexible and creative profession in which there are many paths that will take you to your final destination. Know yourself. This self-awareness will give you the confidence you need to find a path that is best suited to you. Have a plan but keep an open mind. Life has a way of presenting opportunities and taking you places you don’t expect, but if you aren’t open to seeing them, you’ll never know the great satisfaction they may hold. And a lesson learned from my mom, Enjoy the journey. If you don’t, the final destination is not as sweet!