Longtime caregiver learning to teach new nurses

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    Between being a full-time nurse, showing miniature horses, making a 22-year marriage last, watching her high school daughter march in the band and supporting Texas A&M University football for her freshman Aggie, Carla Crider finds time to go to school by taking online classes.Crider graduated from Tarleton State University and went to teach for one year at an East Texas public high school in 1982. It was a less than pleasant experience, Crider said. After working in a number of jobs she didn’t like, she decided she would be a nurse and has been for 11 years.

    Crider works at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth in the labor and delivery and antepartum units, she said. Now she is back in school to take the next step: learn how to be a nurse educator.

    The nursing education program is a graduate program in the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences to teach nurses how to teach, said Kathleen Baldwin, program director.

    Crider said she chose nursing education because she realized she never stopped teaching. She has continued to educate patients, family and other nurses.

    “I like to teach the clinical side,” Crider said. “I like to see the ‘ah-ha’ moments when a concept or skill has been mastered.”

    The program started in fall 2006 with two students who will graduate in spring 2008 if they stay on track, Baldwin said. More are expected in the future because many students did not want to enroll during the program’s first year, Baldwin said.

    Crider said she chose TCU because of its reputation, the online program and because of its close proximity to her home.

    “I’m not afraid to try something new,” Crider said. “It’ll be great.”

    It would be possible for a person to do the nursing education program immediately after receiving a nursing bachelor’s degree, Baldwin said, but most nurses want to gain experience first.

    “If you’re not comfortable being a nurse yourself,” Baldwin said, “it makes it difficult to teach others to be comfortable being a nurse.”

    The reason for the new program is the need for nurse educators, said Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

    Nursing schools around the country have been forced to turn away qualified applicants because of the lack of nursing faculty. A 2005 survey by the American Association of College Nursing showed this in about 73 percent of nursing schools, according to the association’s Web site.

    “We try to invest in programs that there is a need for out there,” Burns said.

    Crider said not only are there not enough nursing teachers, but the average instructor is also nearing retirement age.

    “We have to get new instructors in the field yesterday,” Crider said.

    At the University of Texas at Arlington nursing education is considered an advanced role, said Susan Grove, the associate dean of graduate nursing programs at UTA.

    The advanced role means a student takes seven hours of teaching practicum, along with another master’s degree, Grove said.

    Each student is required to have another master’s degree, such as an advanced practice degree, because a nurse needs a skill, as well as the ability to teach, Grove said.

    The majority of nursing education for the past 15 years has been to prepare advanced practice nurses, Baldwin said.

    Grove said the lack of nurse educators contributes to the shortage of registered nurses, but she said the main contributing factor is the limited number of places nurses can get their clinical hours.

    In a phone interview, Jeanette Lancaster, dean of the University of Virginia School of Nursing, said Texas law requires one master’s prepared registered nurse for every 10 clinical students. However, she said, most schools require one faculty member for every eight students for the safety of the patients.

    Burns said people want to be nurse educators because there are jobs available.

    Another reason is a better lifestyle because the hours are more normal compared with working an all-night shift or not being able to take off two consecutive days, Burns said.

    Lancaster said many nurses get to the point where they can’t handle the hours of being a nurse but still have much to offer. This lends itself to the opportunity to be a nurse educator, she said.

    Crider was in a nurse midwifery program at Emory University when she realized the problems with that lifestyle.

    “(Birth is) one of life’s miracles,” Crider said. “However, I quickly realized that I didn’t want the hours or the liability.”

    At TCU, the entire nursing education program is online because many nursing graduate students work and find it easier to fit online classes into their schedule, Baldwin said.

    Students at UTA have the option to get the entire degree online or on campus or in a combination of both, Grove said. It depends on what best suits their schedule, she said.

    Crider said she likes the convenience of online courses because she does not have to alter her work schedule to come to TCU regularly. At the same time, however, she said she likes having help nearby.

    Most of the graduate students like their ability to attend class at 3 a.m. in their pajamas, as opposed to going to class at a certain time, Baldwin said.