Journal of Nursing Education

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Confessions of a Nursing Instructor

Judyth A Clarkson, RN, MSN

Abstract

"When this year is over, I'm getting out of teaching!" Sound familiar? I have heard this statement from many of my colleagues over the past ten years. I myself have said it, with varying degrees of certainty, including this past year.

What is it that makes a dedicated teacher in the fall turn into a worn out, frazzled creature in the spring? I would like to share with you one instructor's point of view. First of all, there is the theory workload. Now, it would not really be too bad if all we had to do was go into the classroom and funnel all the information into the "eager young minds" of the students but then, that really would not be creative! No, we must be innovative, get the students involved, let them participate! Did anyone else ever feel that it takes twice as long to prepare for a class led by students? You have got to be ready for anything and everything to happen.

Then, of course, there is clinical. For my junior students, that means three days a week starting at 7:00 AM at the hospital. Actually, that means me starting at 6:30 AM with coffee in the cafeteria . . . after all, first things first. Then, off to see that the students have appropriate assignments (they were supposed to have come in the night before to make them). They are doing total patient care so the students must have the medications checked before 7:00 AM ... so must I (it is a mad race to keep up with all the new medications being used)! Lastly, I must be sure the staff is aware which students are on duty and smooth out any misunderstandings that occasionally occur. "No, my students do not really need to give any more enemas but we will be glad to do the dressing changes."

After clinical, it is back to school. IfI am lucky I will only have to drive around the parking lot two or three times before getting a space, and I will only be a few minutes late for my committee meetings. Let's see, this week it is Curriculum, no, that is next week. Today it is Academic Affairs and Recruitment. Oh yes, as chairperson for Personnel Affairs, I must remember to check on the college policy for advancement in rank to be discussed at my next meeting in two weeks. This information then has to be presented to the nursing faculty meeting the following week so we will all be prepared for the total college faculty meeting the week after that. I could use a secretary just to keep track of all my meetings!

All of this would be well and good if I could go home at four or five o'clock in the afternoon, forget school, and just relax, but no, there are always care plans to grade, chapters to read, and medications to look up. The students have no corner on homework! Fortunately, I have a family who understands . . . most of the time. Sometimes, however, priorities do dictate the situation. This year my daughter's senior award night came before my students' pinning. My husband does get perturbed occasionally when we can not go places, such as camping, because I have an assignment to work on.

Finally, we have the students. They start the year eager and motivated but it is not long before they, too, begin to feel the pressures. They long for autonomy and independence yet still feel a great need to be led. The feelings being similar to the frustrations of…

"When this year is over, I'm getting out of teaching!" Sound familiar? I have heard this statement from many of my colleagues over the past ten years. I myself have said it, with varying degrees of certainty, including this past year.

What is it that makes a dedicated teacher in the fall turn into a worn out, frazzled creature in the spring? I would like to share with you one instructor's point of view. First of all, there is the theory workload. Now, it would not really be too bad if all we had to do was go into the classroom and funnel all the information into the "eager young minds" of the students but then, that really would not be creative! No, we must be innovative, get the students involved, let them participate! Did anyone else ever feel that it takes twice as long to prepare for a class led by students? You have got to be ready for anything and everything to happen.

Then, of course, there is clinical. For my junior students, that means three days a week starting at 7:00 AM at the hospital. Actually, that means me starting at 6:30 AM with coffee in the cafeteria . . . after all, first things first. Then, off to see that the students have appropriate assignments (they were supposed to have come in the night before to make them). They are doing total patient care so the students must have the medications checked before 7:00 AM ... so must I (it is a mad race to keep up with all the new medications being used)! Lastly, I must be sure the staff is aware which students are on duty and smooth out any misunderstandings that occasionally occur. "No, my students do not really need to give any more enemas but we will be glad to do the dressing changes."

After clinical, it is back to school. IfI am lucky I will only have to drive around the parking lot two or three times before getting a space, and I will only be a few minutes late for my committee meetings. Let's see, this week it is Curriculum, no, that is next week. Today it is Academic Affairs and Recruitment. Oh yes, as chairperson for Personnel Affairs, I must remember to check on the college policy for advancement in rank to be discussed at my next meeting in two weeks. This information then has to be presented to the nursing faculty meeting the following week so we will all be prepared for the total college faculty meeting the week after that. I could use a secretary just to keep track of all my meetings!

All of this would be well and good if I could go home at four or five o'clock in the afternoon, forget school, and just relax, but no, there are always care plans to grade, chapters to read, and medications to look up. The students have no corner on homework! Fortunately, I have a family who understands . . . most of the time. Sometimes, however, priorities do dictate the situation. This year my daughter's senior award night came before my students' pinning. My husband does get perturbed occasionally when we can not go places, such as camping, because I have an assignment to work on.

Finally, we have the students. They start the year eager and motivated but it is not long before they, too, begin to feel the pressures. They long for autonomy and independence yet still feel a great need to be led. The feelings being similar to the frustrations of the teen-ager who is no longer a child but not quite an adult. This dichotomy often leads to an aggressive student, the bane of every teacher.

All of these circumstances together add up to the end result that apparently makes persons question themselves and their chosen profession. What is it then that makes a person come back for another year? Yes, I am coming back for another year and, again, I would like to share some of the reasons why with you.

With all the frustrations of the classroom we still realize that more learning is likely to take place if the situation is rich in potential stimulation and that the student learns more when actively involved in the teaching-learning process (Clayton, 1965). The satisfaction I receive when the students experience the "A-Ha Syndrome" is equaled only by the students' own enthusiasm at being able to put two and two together and get four!

The same holds true in the clinical area. Clinical teaching is actually helping the student to self-discovery (Knopke & Diekelmann, 1978). The teacher who can differentiate when to offer assistance and when to allow the students to manage on their own, will reap the benefits of seeing the students grow. As Infante (1975) tells us, "the student must be allowed freedom to observe, plan, test, and evaluate his own activities in the clinical area without the teacher hovering over him." It is also gratifying to know that I have made the appropriate judgments.

Finally, when the end of the year approaches and the students are getting ready to move on, and I begin to wonder if it was all worth it, I get a note from the students saying "Thanks for being there when we needed you. We really do appreciate your help." Yes, it is worth it. When I look back and see the growth and the ways in which 1 had helped the students, I also see new ways I can help the upcoming class. Teaching is a growth process for the instructor too.

I know there will again be times I will question and want out but more than that there will be times I am glad I am a nursing instructor. To end, I would like to share a quotation of unknown origin that I read while in graduate school and I believe fits the situation: "Out of the strain of doing, into the peace of the done."

References

  • Clayton, T.E. Teaching and Learning . . . A Psychological Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hill Incorporated, 1965.
  • Infante, M.S. The Clinical Laboratory In Nursing Education. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1975.
  • Knopke, H.J., and Diekelmann, N. L. Approaches To Teaching In The Health Sciences. Menlo Park: Addison Wesley Publishing Company. 1978.

10.3928/0148-4834-19830901-09

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