The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) recently welcomed a new faculty member to the College of Nursing. Dr. Thuy Lam Lynch recently began her tenure as an Assistant Professor of Nursing at UAH. After earning her undergraduate degree in nursing from UAH, Lynch says becoming a nursing professor at the university feels like coming home.
Dr. Lynch was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and realized at a young age that she wanted to become a nurse after encountering the kind and caring nature of her own nurses during a hospital stay as a young patient. Lynch grew up in Huntsville, AL, and after graduating high school with honors she enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at UAH. Explaining her decision to pursue higher education, Lynch tells UAH.edu:
“I was inspired and encouraged by my hospital nursing director to pursue a Master’s degree in Nursing. I believe in life-long learning, so naturally I enrolled in a PhD nursing program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). My studies in the doctoral program helped to shape my worldview and better understand the experiences of others.”
Lynch graduated from UAB in 2012 with distinguished doctoral student honors and a specialty in pediatric nursing. She is honored to be among the faculty at UAH and give back to the nursing program where her career started. This fall she will be teaching Mental Health Nursing in the undergraduate program at UAH.
To learn more about Dr. Thuy Lam Lynch and her career in nursing, visit here.
People who teach those who come after them often do so because they want to give back or have a positive influence on upcoming students in the field. That’s exactly what Susan Zori, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, an assistant clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Public Health at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, does.
Zori took some time to explain to us what she does, why she does it, and what she would recommend to those thinking about becoming a professor at a nursing school.
What follows is an edited version of our Q&A.
What does your job entail? Do you specialize in specific topics that you teach? How many courses do you teach each semester?
My job is to inspire the next generation of nurses. I teach theory courses for Fundamentals of Patient Centered Care, Care of Adult 1, and Care of Older Adult, and I teach 2 to 3 courses per semester.
I constantly challenge myself to instill concepts and safety while bridging knowledge to actual clinical situations. I believe in active learning and incorporate active learning into classes.
Why did you choose to teach?
I have had an extensive career in clinical nursing and nursing administration. I am passionate about nursing and love teaching. I love seeing students light up as they make connections and become passionate about caring for patients. I find great satisfaction in “paying it forward” and preparing the next generation of nurses for a very different health care environment.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
The biggest challenges are preparing students to pass NCLEX, with all that is entailed in writing tests, administering tests, and grading tests.
What are the greatest rewards?
I still work occasionally at a hospital in an administrative role. I sometimes come across an RN that I had as a student. When I do, it is wonderful to see them and know that I had a very small part in helping them in their journey.
What would you say to someone considering this type of work?
Nursing is a wonderful profession that gives one the opportunity to make a difference in patients’, students’, and nurses’ lives every day.
Being successful in nursing requires intelligence, perseverance, and passion. It is one of the hardest courses of study, but it is rewarding and offers one many different opportunities such as masters and doctorate level study as well as opportunities to continually learn, and truly shape health care.
Nurses are the perfect professionals to engage patients in wellness, manage chronic illness, coordinate care, and thus shape the current health care system into one that is accessible and equitable for all. Nurses can and will do this.
Lori A. Spies, PhD, RN, assistant professor in the Baylor University Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSON) recently received a 2017-18 Fulbright Global Scholar Award. Spies’ work specializes in global health and building capacity in health care providers. Her colleagues at Baylor are immensely proud of her prestigious recognition and the research and global health contributions she makes to the university. Spies tells Baylor.edu:
“I am thrilled to have been selected to receive the Global Fulbright. The award will allow me the amazing opportunity to teach and implement research in three countries. I look forward to collaborating with health care providers in India, Vietnam, and Zambia to research best education practices in noncommunicable diseases.”
With a background in teaching global health and international clinical courses to graduate students for over a decade, Spies’ Fulbright award is well deserved. Spies is the co-founder of the North Texas African Health Initiative, a past president of the North Texas Nurse Practitioners, and she serves on the practice committee for the International Council of Nurses Advanced Practice Nursing Network. Her international work includes travel to Uganda to build nurse leadership and research capacity; participation in faculty and nurse development in Ethiopia, India, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia; and refugee outreach in Myanmar.
The Fulbright Program is a government international educational exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State. Since its founding in 1946, over 370,000 award recipients from 180 countries have been given the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
How were your grades in nursing school?
I know, most of us try to forget all those nursing school tests, but for the sake of our patients and our profession, let’s consider those tests again and how important equity in nursing education is to our ability to attract, train, and retain a diverse nursing workforce.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “… it is essential to have a nursing workforce that will reflect the population of the United States so as to deliver cost-effective, quality care and improve patients’ satisfaction and health outcomes…”
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing adds, “…diversity in the nursing workforce provides opportunities to deliver quality care which promotes patient satisfaction and emotional well-being.”
But despite imperatives such as these, we still find a large gender discrepancy in nursing demographics. Statistics from the American Nursing Association show that just 11% of licensed nurses are male. Other sources put that number at just 9%, and research suggests that gender bias in nursing education could be playing a role.
According to a study published in Nursing Education Today, implicit gender discrimination in nursing education can affect how female and male students are graded on short-answer or essay exams (the types of tests with room for subjectivity in grading). In the study, the researchers looked at how students’ grades changed depending upon whether instructors were blinded or un-blinded to students’ gender. The instructors in the study graded the exams once and then two months later were asked to re-grade them after the identities of the students had been hidden.
The results showed that when instructors knew they were scoring a male student’s exam, he tended to score lower than when the instructors were blinded to his gender. The opposite was true among female students’ exam scores – their grades generally went up when instructors were aware of gender and down when they were not.
Granted, this was a small study including just eight nursing school instructors and 400 exams, but certainly the results are worth noting – especially by anyone involved in nursing education. Bias in our nursing education can result in negative feedback to male students, affecting nursing school retention rates and discouraging men from pursuing nursing careers.
Additional research in Nurse Education Today sheds more light on the situation. Called “Gender Differences in the academic and clinical performance of undergraduate nursing students: A systematic review,” the meta-analysis looked at 55 studies on gender bias in nursing education and found a few general trends including: negative experiences among male nursing students during their obstetric clinical placements, differences in learning styles among male and female nursing students perhaps affecting male success in nursing programs, and that many male nursing students do not feel supported in their nursing programs.
The good news?
Both men and women feel equally “called” to the profession of nursing, and really that’s the future of nursing.
Below, I talk with Lisa Shine, BSN, RN, a lab and simulations instructor at a nursing school in Virginia.
What is your background in nursing?
I got my bachelor of science in nursing from Marymount University in Virginia, and then started working in an urban DC emergency department.
How did you hear about your current position as a clinical instructor?
When I was in nursing school, I told my old lab director that I would be back someday. She told me if I had one year of nursing experience she would take me to run simulations and teach labs. After a year, I walked into her office and she gave me the job.
I teach the lab portion of a course in the fundamentals of nursing, which focuses on clinical skills and development, and I run nursing simulations for medical-surgical nursing, mother-child nursing, mental health nursing, and community health.
What is challenging about the role?
It depends. I hear ” I have kids” or “I work full time to support my family” a lot. It can be difficult to teach people who have a lot going on in their personal lives.
What is rewarding?
I love that I am able to teach our future nurses how to manage various kinds of diseases, acute and chronic. Watching the “ah-ha!” moments and recognizing the growth in my students is why I continue to do this in conjunction with a full-time night shift nursing gig in one of the craziest emergency departments in the city. It is my privilege to mentor and “raise up” the next generation of nurses. I try to build good relationships with my students. I currently have a stack of recommendations I need to write—I guess that means they like me!
Who would you recommend for this position?
I think this role would be good for anyone who wants to take a more active role in the development of the new nursing workforce, or who might eventually want to become a professor. It’s great experience. You definitely must have patience and a passion for knowledge. The baby nurses need a lot of support, so you kind of need to be nurturing and warm.
What are your future plans with your career?
Eventually, I plan to go back to school to get my master’s degree. With a master’s I will be able to teach the lecture portion of the undergraduate nursing classes. Right now, though, I enjoy teaching baby nurses clinical skills, like how to drop a good IV line and put a foley catheter in a mannequin.
Are you currently in school with the goal of earning a PhD or DNP degree? If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance you see yourself headed for a faculty position as a nurse educator in academia.
Until the very recent past, PhDs filled the majority of faculty positions. However, DNPs are now frequently entering academics to fill faculty positions, and the crossover of expectations and tasks are creating increasingly blurry lines between the roles of PhDs and DNPs. After all, in both roles, there are usually teaching, scholarship, and service expectations. With only a superficial view, it’s almost impossible to detect what the differences might be.
Because specific faculty roles are often determined by institutional leadership and policies, and are not consistent across the United States, you should consider yourself an investigative reporter and ask the right questions wherever your job search takes you. Knowing the right questions to ask before accepting a job offer is essential in order to avoid unpleasant surprises after being hired!
The following questions will help you get a better understanding of the faculty role you may be applying for.
1. What type of appointment will I be eligible for?
A tenure track appointment vs. a clinical track appointment has important implications for your workload and how you will be expected to structure your time. Tenure-track appointments usually have research expectations built into them (along with teaching), and are generally reserved for research-focused PhD faculty. However, these appointments are now available at some institutions for clinically-focused DNP faculty.
Clinical appointments usually carry a primary teaching responsibility, and are generally reserved for clinically-focused DNPs. But, frequently, PhD faculty may also find themselves in clinical track positions.
As if that is not confusing enough, an academic appointment may be either 9 months or 12 months, which has critical implications for ongoing finances and health insurance coverage. With a nine-month appointment, you may not be guaranteed a full workload (or full paycheck!) each summer. Definitely a critical point to know ahead of time.
2. Where do new faculty learn the educator role?
New faculty need guidance from more experienced faculty colleagues, and you should not be expected to go it alone. Without a background in teaching strategies, evaluation of learning outcomes, or the general culture of academia, the first year of teaching is full of unknowns and not easily tackled without an experienced guide. Being part of a teaching team that includes more experienced colleagues is ideal. Additionally, you should also have access to professional development opportunities as an educator through institutional resources and educator conferences.
3. When do faculty in my position assume active roles on committees at the department and university level?
While committees are an integral part of faculty life, too many committees can easily distract from other commitments. Setting up new courses, developing a scholarly trajectory, and adjusting to academia in general is time and energy intensive. Being pulled into intense service commitments can easily distract from those, and if possible, administrators may shield new faculty while they are adapting to their new role.
4. How will I be evaluated on the expectations related to teaching, scholarship, and service?
Since this may determine eligibility for merit increases or promotions, you’ll definitely want to ask this!
By clarifying the type of appointment you are eligible for, resources available to you, and the institution-specific expectations for evaluating your performance, you’ll be better prepared to face the exciting challenges and opportunities that await you in your new position.
Acknowledgement: Faculty colleagues Ms. Mercedes Martinez, Dr. Kathleen Cox, and Dr. Karim Singh.