Being True to Yourself: A Career as a Nurse Educator Guided by Critical Caring Pedagogy

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.

Source

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
E Dolen Picture

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.

Keeping the Spark: How to Maintain your Humanism During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Guest Contributor: Erin Dolen, MS, RN, CNE

The country, and the world, is at war. War against the virus SARS-CoV-2 that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 or “COVID-19” (FDA, 2020). As nurses, we must be on the front lines. Our dedication to the community to provide high-quality care should not end despite the complications associated with this pandemic. But how? How can we stay dedicated, humanistic, and compassionate when we are stretched beyond the limits of what we can accomplish? Josephine Paterson and Loretta Zderad have the answer.

Josephine Paterson (left), Loretta Zderad (right)

Paterson and Zderad (2007) first published their Humanistic Nursing Theory in 1975. Their hope was to help nurses understand that nursing is “an experience lived between human beings” (p.14). Through this experience, nurses can bring meaning and understanding to each patient’s life, the patient’s family’s life, and their own life. Paterson and Zderad maintained that this experience is important and effects the existence of all human beings.

So, what would they think about this global pandemic we currently find ourselves in? What does their theory propose that can help us now? These theorists also maintained that through having this shared experience with patients, nurses may hopefully remember why they chose to answer the calling of the nursing profession and stay dedicated to nursing despite the challenges that most certainly lie ahead. They could not be more right. We need this dedication to our profession now more than ever. We need to all remember why we chose to become nurses. What life experiences led us to this profession? What patients have we had during our careers that only further solidified that meaning in our lives? We have all had them. That older gentleman who was living his last moments on earth and grabbed our hands, and simply said “thank you”. That teenager who made a choice and found themselves in a life-changing situation who actually listened to us. I mean, really listened. That mother who lost a child who found solace in our embrace during the most difficult time in her life.

We need to remember these experiences but we also need to make new ones. Remember that each patient is a human being with needs, fears, and desires. Live this experience with them, not around them. Help them see meaning and understanding in their current situation. Help them see that they are not alone, nurses are with them. When you feel the need to rush out of the room, take the extra moment to lay a therapeutic hand on the patient’s shoulder, and simply smile. The smile may be behind your mask, but let it light up your eyes. The humanistic approach to nursing isn’t just for verbal interactions, but non-verbal as well (McCamant, 2006). For the pediatric patient who needed to have an x-ray and was taken from their mother, hold them PPE and all.

The humanistic nursing theory also has a subset of five phenomenological phases of nursing: preparation for coming to know, intuitive knowledge of others, scientific knowledge of others, synthesis of current knowledge to supplement practice and the inner transition from “many to the paradoxical one” (Lelis, Pagliuca, & Cardoso, 2014, p. 1117). As structured as this sounds, when you think about it, all nurses need to prepare to accept new knowledge, utilize their own intuitive knowledge, recall and retain scientific knowledge, apply that knowledge to guide their practice, and become one with their patients and their profession. Regardless of whether they know it or not, every nurse has been practicing the humanistic nursing theory their entire careers. Keep going. Keep accepting new knowledge and new experiences. Keep trusting your intuition and your scientific knowledge. Keep guiding your actions with evidence-informed practice. Keep becoming one with your patients and their families.

During this pandemic, when nurses feel exhausted, powerless, and ill-prepared, these experiences will help get us through. They will bring meaning and understanding to our lives. This meaning and understanding will help us remember that spark that lights our way to humanism. Most importantly, this lived experience with our patients will help us stay dedicated to our vital profession during this pandemic, and during any challenging times that lie ahead, just as Paterson and Zderad had hoped.

References

Lelis, A.L.P.A., Pagliuca, L.M.F., & Cardoso, M.V.L.M.L. (2014). Phases of humanistic theory: Analysis of applicability in research. Text Context Nursing, Florianopolus, 23(4), 1113-1122. https://doi.org/10.1590/0104-07072014002140013

McCamant, K.L. (2006). Humanistic nursing, interpersonal relations theory, and the empathy-altruism hypothesis. Nursing Science Quarterly, 19(4), 334-338. doi: 10.1177/0894318406292823

Paterson, J.G. & Zderad, L.T. (2007). Humanistic nursing [ebook]. Wiley. (Original work published 1975).

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-issues/coronavirus- disease-2019-covid-19

About Guest Contributor Erin Dolen

E Dolen PictureErin 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.