Guest Contributor: Erin Dolen, MS, RN, CNE*
My career in nursing education has spanned the better part of a decade. For the majority of that time, I taught in an associate’s degree nursing program. At first, I was not sure if nursing education was for me. I was always a preceptor on the nursing units during my time in the hospitals, but that does not necessarily equate to being a good educator. After a semester, I was hooked. I found so much joy in showing my students not just how to do nursing, but how to be nurses. Forget “teaching to the test”! I would teach through experience, stories, relationships, respect, and caring.
Over the years, I thought I was developing into an expert nurse educator. I obtained my MSN, I passed my Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam, and I achieved quite a following among the student body. Until one day, it all changed. I was accused of being too personal, too attached to my stories and experiences, too outward in my sharing. I couldn’t understand why this faculty member was attacking me for being who I am, for valuing my relationship with my students, for giving them a part of me so they know I am human too. The lateral violence (let’s face it, that is what it was) became too much and I decided to move on to where I currently am, a baccalaureate nursing program.
My world has changed. I am now valued for giving my students everything that I have. For sharing not just my experiences but who I am as a person, a nurse, a mom, a friend. I care about them, and they know this. I want them to succeed beyond all ways they could imagine. I want them to learn from me; not just how to be a nurse but how to be someone who cares, who is empathetic, moral, ethical, a life-long learner, and is committed to the profession of nursing. Through my own education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University in the Online Nursing Education EdD program, now I know why. My whole nursing education career I have been guided by the Critical Caring Pedagogy (CCP).
CCP provides a framework for nursing education that, all at once, encompasses ontology, epistemology, ethics, and praxis (Chinn & Falk-Rafael, 2018). This framework consists of seven critical caring health-promoting processes: preparing oneself to be in relation, developing and maintaining trusting-helping relationships, using a systematic reflective approach to caring, transpersonal teaching-learning, creating and supporting sustainable environments, meeting needs and building capacity of students, and being open and attending to spiritual-mysterious and existential dimensions (Chinn & Falk-Rafael, 2018).
Isn’t this what I have been doing all along? All seven?! I have just come to the realization that my own practice as a nurse educator for the last decade has consisted of being in a caring and guiding relationship with my students, the foundation of CCP. I have been guided by a theory I had no formal knowledge of until now. And yet, I was faulted for it. Told I was giving too much of myself to my students. Told that I was to teach the material, not cultivate relationships. Told I made the two students out of HUNDREDS uncomfortable (yes, you guessed it, these students were academically unsuccessful and reaching for reasons for their appeal to be upheld). I almost gave up teaching. I knew I could not work in an environment that did not support my own values and approach to the teaching-learning relationship. Until I moved into my current position, where my foundation in CCP is respected, appreciated, and celebrated. To where my colleagues also practice with the guidance of CCP, whether they know it or not.
Now I can put into words what I have felt all along. Thank you, Peggy Chinn and Adeline Falk-Rafael, for providing the framework and empirics to support what I felt was the right way to teach deep down in my core. Critical Caring Pedagogy has given my teaching practice meaning and validity. I will carry this knowledge with me wherever I go, and I will never give up teaching.
Chinn, P.L. & Falk-Rafael, A. (2018). Embracing the focus of the discipline of nursing: Critical caring pedagogy. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50(6), 687-694. Doi: 10.1111/jnu.12426
*About Guest Contributor Erin Dolen
Erin is an Assistant Professor of Practice at Russell Sage College in Troy, NY. She is a doctoral student in the EdD Nursing Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has her MSN with a focus in Nursing Education from Excelsior College. Erin has her national certification as a Certified Nurse Educator. Her nursing background is in emergency medicine. She lives in Delmar, NY with her husband and two children.