Pennsylvania resident Conni Miller (G’14) earned her BSN degree in 1993 from Widener University, and has been in the nursing field for 19 years. She is currently enrolled part time in the Nurse Educator program. Here, she shares with us her motivations for pursuing an advanced degree and how Nursing@Georgetown has helped make it possible.
Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree?
I have had a very interesting and varied career in critical care. I have worked at a large teaching hospital, a Level 2 trauma center, and a local community college. Being a professional nurse, it is vital to constantly grow and evolve or this will become just a “job” instead of a career. While I love working at the bedside, I knew I needed to take my education to another level to assist others in learning this profession.
Why did you want to pursue the Nurse Educator concentration?
I was offered the opportunity to teach as an adjunct nursing instructor about four years ago. I had been in practice for about 15 years and felt it was the right time to share what I had learned. My students seem to appreciate my unique teaching style, and I truly feel I have important lessons learned over the years to share with them. In order to give my students a solid learning experience, plus to expand my teaching into academic setting, I needed to obtain my Master of Science degree in Nursing.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting in this career path?
When I realized I wanted to become a Nurse Educator, I started looking for teaching opportunities in my hospital. I became a certified ACLS instructor, became a super-user for our computer system and monitors, and became a content expert resource to the staff in my units. Become comfortable with sharing your knowledge with others, such as becoming a good resource to newer staff. Most important is to adopt a curious attitude about everything. This field is constantly changing, and it is vital to keep up while maintaining a solid knowledge base.
What has your experience been with the Learning Management System (2GU)?
Being a bit of a techno geek, this type of class setting is truly perfect for me. It blends the online computer environment that I enjoy with the personal aspect of having a good teacher. The instructors for my classes have been excellent on making this a personal learning experience. They have always been available when needed without spoon-feeding, so I truly feel I am getting a thorough education while not having to travel long distances for classes.
Do you have an example you can share of a time when you were able to apply something you’d learned in class to your current job?
Recently, one of my students had a very complicated patient that the admitting condition was not clear. Using the knowledge we had in pathophysiology down to the cellular level assisted me in being able to get her to process the course of events that caused the marked fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Pathophysiology is a challenging course, but when I found I was able to explain and simplify the information to my student, I knew it was because I understood the processes at another level. To quote Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
What is one skill you believe every nurse should possess, no matter what stage in their career?
A vital skill to adopt is a constantly questioning thought process. One should never be content with just going through the motions when working. If you come across a disease process that is unfamiliar, look it up. If you are unsure about a medication you are administering, learn what it is and what it does. You never know when a small piece of information you obtain will make all the difference in the world to your patient.
Do you currently work part or full time?
I technically work part time, but I work per diem in a critical care unit and teach as a bedside clinical instructor for a local community college so the hours are more like full time. Time management is crucial for juggling it all.
In what states have you practiced?
I started my nursing career in the United States Army Nurse Corps and was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Once my commitment was completed, I worked in hospitals in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
In what departments have you worked?
I have always worked in critical care. I started in a step-down unit. And then transitioned to a complex Medical/Pediatric ICU, a Trauma ICU, and now a mixed ICU dealing with all types of critically ill patients.
How old are you?
I am 42 years old. Of course, I always say, “It’s not the age; it’s the mileage!”
Are you married? Do you have any children?
I have been married to my wonderful husband for 16 years. We have been blessed with two energetic and fun boys, ages 12 years and 10 years. My oldest has autism and truly is my poster child for early intervention. My youngest is my mini-me and it is often trying to keep a step ahead of him. I truly could not be a success in this program without their loving support.
What are some ways you’ve been working to create a healthy work-school-life balance?
I will admit that juggling the various hats I wear as a wife, mother, nurse, teacher, and now, as a student is not easy. Sometimes the stress overwhelms me, but I have a new found peace in running — a lot! I picked it up as a mid-life crisis about two years ago and have run in three half marathons, several shorter distance races, and am preparing to run my first full marathon in November. I am not fast, but I never quit. Studies have proven the psychological and physiological benefits to exercise. It truly calms the stress and allows my brain to focus on what needs to be done.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve found that when you find a path in life, things just fall into place. When I was in high school and trying to decide what I wanted to do in life, there were a lot of road blocks put in the way when I was looking at other careers. When I decided to go into nursing, doors just opened up and I was able to attend an excellent school that I would not have been able to afford without my Army ROTC scholarship. My path to obtain my Master’s has been similar. When I looked in the wrong places, many obstacles were happening the past few years, but since I have come to Georgetown, things just seem to be falling into the right places and I know I am where I am supposed to be.
I know that last paragraph reads like a commercial, but it is true.
We invite you to learn more about the Nursing@Georgetown program, or call our admissions team at 1-877-910-HOYA (4692).