Welcome to Why I Love to Teach, our feature on Roane State faculty and why they love to do what they do. Today, meet Vickie Harris, associate professor of nursing, who became fascinated by healthcare after she saw a newspaper article about the world’s first heart transplant. Enjoy.
Dec. 20, 2017
By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
Nurses aren’t created. They’re born.
“You have to have it in your soul,” says Vickie Harris, an associate professor of nursing at Roane State.
“You can be educated to be a nurse, but you have to have the tenacity and endurance to stay in the profession,” Harris said.
“It’s passion that gives people the grit to stay in nursing, a profession that at times is going to beat you down.”
For more than a decade, Harris has been inspiring Roane State students while teaching them the fundamentals and challenges of nursing.
She received a master’s degree in nursing education in May 2006 and has been teaching full-time at Roane State since that August. She was recruited for her Roane State job, she said, after being an adjunct professor at the college for five years.
Making the change from being a cardiothoracic nurse in acute care at Methodist Medical Center for more than 20 years to teaching prospective nurses was at first a challenge, Harris admits.
“Being an expert at bedside care doesn’t mean that flows easily into the classroom,” she said. “It took me about three or four years before I felt comfortable in the classroom. But for the last five years, I’ve found such joy there.”
In an era of medical breakthroughs, there are more challenges than ever in keeping up with those advancements.
“We are eternal learners,” Harris said. “We’re constantly learning new medications, latest researched best practice, and new policies.”
Roane State is a regional leader in healthcare education, she said. The college “has an excellent reputation” for students passing the national RN licensure exam on the first try. “We’ve done very well in the community,” she said. “Hospitals will tell you they like to hire our graduates.”
Harris said she became fascinated by healthcare when she was 8 years old and saw a newspaper article about the world’s first heart transplant. She still has that newspaper, now yellowed and brittle with age, as a reminder of that inspiration.
Her path to nursing wasn’t always smooth, but she persisted, thanks to what she says is a strong work ethic.
“I’ve been working since I was 14,” she said. “In order to be successful, you have to show up on time, do what’s expected of you and not call in sick, if you can prevent it.”
She took dual credit courses at Roane State while a student at Roane County High, and then attended the college before transferring to UT. Her education was interrupted by illness and a five-year stay in Germany with her military spouse and their two young children.
While there, Harris taught CPR and childbirth classes and also volunteered in the Army hospital’s emergency room in Nuremburg.
Upon returning to the states, Harris started over as a single parent and worked in a doctor’s office before remarrying and moving to North Carolina.
She received an associate’s degree in nursing from Fayetteville Community College in 1988 and her bachelor’s degree in health education in 2002 from University of St. Francis in Illinois.
While admitting she wasn’t a computer-savvy person at the time, she said she received an “exceptionally good education” online to obtain her master’s degree in health education from University of Phoenix while working full time at Methodist Medical Center and as an adjunct clinical faculty for RSCC.
She now teaches a course in the fundamentals of nursing in the fall and a medical surgical nursing class in the spring. “I teach the student how to think like a nurse,” Harris said.
Along with lectures twice per week, she said she has the opportunity and privilege to teach students in clinical in the hospital.
The clinical experience requires the student to pick up the patient assignment the evening before their clinical day. Preparedness is paramount because the student must understand the medical diagnoses, prescribed medications, lab values, patient history and current reason for hospitalization.
A plan of care is created by the student which they will utilize in patient care from 6:45 a.m. at rounding report until the conclusion of post conference at 2:30 p.m. The skills nursing students perform in clinical are learned and tested in the nursing lab prior to their learning opportunities with patients in the hospital.
The long term payoff, she said, is to see her former students excelling as nurses in area hospitals.
“I want to help inspire the nurses who will one day take care of me, my family, and our community.”
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