Written by: Pamela Stokes, MHCA, DNP, RN
When people say, who are you and what do you like to do? I always say I'm a nurse first, because not only am I so proud of it, but I really live it.
Like so many others, I became a nurse because I wanted to help people. I truly felt that I had a calling to a service profession. When I was in my early twenties, my father became ill and went to the emergency room where we found out that his esophageal varices had ruptured. He was put in the ICU and at that time the medical team determined that he needed a liver transplant. So, as you can imagine, during the next several months I went through numerous doctors and had numerous hospital stays. What I noticed, was that the nurse was the one; the one who was in the room, the one bonding with the family, the one bonding with the patient. They were really managing my father’s care from head to toe. They were talking to all the integrative team members to make sure that he got the care that he needed. That’s when I felt called to come to nursing because I knew that the nursing role was a key role that I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to play a key part in helping the family, easing their fears and most importantly to be an advocate for my patient and be in charge of all aspects of their care.
My professional and academic nursing path
As for my own journey, I started as a clinical nurse on the floor in labor and delivery and I did that for many years. During that time I realized that I loved the education piece of nursing. I loved teaching people–not only my colleagues but the families that had a newborn baby to take care of. So I went back to school and I got my Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in Education. After earning my MSN, I got a job as a professor teaching maternal child health nursing, nursing theory, and health assessment courses but I also continued my job on the floor as a labor and delivery nurse.
Following several more years working and teaching, while getting some experience under my belt, I took a role as a health administrator at a college health clinic. In that position I managed nurses and allied health professionals and lab staff and was also writing policy. This role really let me be a change agent in the field. After earning my MSN, I just kept going because I found that it opened so many other doors for me. Earning a graduate degree not only allowed me to network with other people, but it opened my eyes to other ways that I could be a change agent in nursing, whether that be research or networking with the government or political parties. So while working as an administrator I was also able to get my Master of Science in Healthcare Administration and my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a nursing executive concentration. Being in administration in a hospital and really creating change in the community where I lived was really, really rewarding to me. It was also at that time I started having people reach out to me as a content expert and wanting me to be a part of some really great things.
Now, I'm a nurse recruiter and I'm doing business development for nursing while I'm reviewing nursing content. I love it because not only have I been a change agent, but now I can help inspire others and hopefully motivate others to go into a field where there are so many opportunities to do so many different things.
Why should you further your nursing education?
For me, getting a higher level of education was all for myself. It was so that I would be more confident in what I was doing and so that I gain more advanced skills. It wasn't necessarily about chasing a different title or a different job or a higher pay, although those things came along with it as an added benefit. It was really because I wanted to expand my knowledge base. Going back and getting a graduate degree may not immediately change your pay or your title, but it's going to make you so much more self-confident and other opportunities will come as a result of that confidence.
When I got my DNP the whole world changed for me. I think I was doing it for myself, just like when I got my master’s, and I wanted to feel better about being in a large leadership position. I needed to feel like I had the level of knowledge and the connections that I needed to do a good job for those that worked with me and for me. Once I got my DNP doors opened everywhere and I don't think I expected it. Many people started contacting me about contract positions, whether they were writing National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) questions or reviewing textbooks, or consulting on healthcare issues within organizations. I also started speaking and traveling nationally, building a network of people that could call on one another to help educate and change healthcare around us and through our work with others.
I am so excited when people ask me about the different environments that I've worked in, but also about the different environments that you can work in as a nurse. Nursing is never boring. You can choose to go into one field and really master the art of that one field for your entire career, or you can be in multiple fields and when you get tired of one, there's another door waiting for you to open. It could be one-on-one at the patient's bedside or it could be at a grand scale or a national scale leading political change or developing healthcare policy and procedures. Nurses do work many long hard hours and it's difficult, but I also find it incredibly rewarding.
Let me help you on your own nursing journey
Working in business development for Oklahoma City University and the Kramer School of Nursing, I'm hoping to help new nurses enroll in school and teach them about how important it is while also emphasizing what a difference it made in my life. I can see how my nursing career evolved through all the stages of my journey and I think that's true for anybody who goes back to school and continues to look for advancement in their career. I'm super grateful to be at this stage of my life.
I'm very passionate about the nursing profession because I believe that we need competent, autonomous nurses in our field. As the population ages and we see the acuity of our patients getting higher and more critical, I really think that it is super important that we have nurses who are passionate about what they do.
When people ask me to describe myself, the first thing I always say is I'm a nurse because that means a lot to me. Giving to others and helping others means a lot to me. I feel like if I can contribute in some way, shape, or form and perform a service for somebody else that will make a difference in this world, then that's what I'm here to do.
Please get in touch with any questions you have about nursing education, online nursing programs, and Oklahoma City University's online MSN and online BSN programs. It would be my pleasure to help you navigate the next step of your career and academic journey.