For those looking to enter the field of nursing education at some point in their career, this interview may be of special interest to you. Jimmy Reyes is the Dean of nursing at Kirkwood Community College. Often times the position of Dean at a college may slip our minds as a possible career choice. It definitely isn’t one of the more obvious areas of nursing to find oneself. Many nurses enter this field to do good, to help people, and to help serve the community. Dean Jimmy Reyes gets to be a leader at the forefront of the healthcare community by helping to educate these young nurses.
Take a moment to read about Dean Reyes and his career, you just might decide the field of nurse education is a good fit for you.
What led you to a career in nursing?
I became interested in Nursing because my grandmother was a nurse who worked with the underserved in Santiago, Chile. She helped me realize that the personal growth and development that happens in high school and college is just as important as the academics. Reflecting on my time with her, she was one of my first mentors and supporters.
How did you become the nursing dean of Kirkwood Community College – was it something you aspired to originally?
I have always aspired to work in Academia in an Administrative capacity because I would have the opportunity to work with students, faculty, peers, and community members, as well as, lobbyists to advance and sustain nursing education programs and educate the next generation of nurse leaders and scientists.
Can you tell us a bit more about the path you took to become a Nursing Dean, for example the education you pursued, work experience you pursued, how did you get your foot in the door?
I graduated from the University of Iowa College of Nursing with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner certification, and Doctor of Nursing Practice with an emphasis in organizational leadership degrees. At the University of Iowa I worked with several researchers to advance nursing and medical science, whom I not only collaborated in projects and presentations, but who also offered me with many leadership opportunities at local and national organizations. Also, I worked closely with a few mentors who helped me to strategically plan my academic career, one of them being how to effectively lead institutions of higher education. Thanks to the continuos mentorship and guidance from University of Iowa faculty and administration, I was able to begin my deanship at Kirkwood Community College.
What is a typical day like for you on the job?
A typical day involves listening to students, faculty, and staff, providing resolution to questions and concerns, and facilitating smooth operations. The majority of my meetings with students revolve around insightful conversations about advanced practice nursing, research, and leadership activities. Beginning a nursing career at Kirkwood is a fundamental step towards becoming a professional and competent nurse. One of my goals is to promote continuing education and building leadership capacity.
As the nursing dean, you are a mentor to young individuals just entering the field. What are your greatest challenges with this aspect of your career?
Staying current with the changes in Nursing practice, policy, and research to effectively advise students and connect them with the appropriate resources. Being involved in many local and national associations and committees and networking with other leaders in healthcare, has helped me to mentor and facilitate strategic planning to many of our graduates.
What are your favorite parts of being the nursing dean? Is there anything you find particularly rewarding?
Being the Dean of Nursing is both rewarding and challenging, but what I enjoy the most is working with faculty and students in implementing, evaluating, and disseminating research initiatives and leadership activities. My area of research is in improving diabetes self-management among underserved communities. I attempt to provide students with additional tools and programs to improve patient care and outcomes via research.
What education and experience is helpful for someone who wants to pursue this type of career?
What is great about Nursing is that you can carve your own path to a rewarding clinical, academic, and/or research career. Besides obtaining a doctoral degree in Nursing (Ph.D., Ed.D., DNP), an individual must possess passion, integrity, dedication, emotional intelligence, and humbleness to pursue a career in Academia. The latter attributes are developed and refined with the assistance of an influential mentor or mentors, being involved in leadership activities, and developing a robust program of research.
Also, learning the culture of the place and embracing the mission and vision of the college.
Are there any unique challenges you’d warn someone about who wanted to eventually become a dean of nursing?
Any career in Nursing has its own unique challenges, but one that may prove difficult is finding balance. Once you become a Dean of Nursing, you are accountable to effectively lead your faculty, staff, and students. Also, you are expected to partake in local and national initiatives to enhance nursing education and practice, among other activities. With that said, prioritizing will help you lead a quality and balanced family and academic life.
What is your best advice for young professionals just starting out in the field today?
For young professionals, I would advise the following: be passionate, driven, and strategic. Set achievable short- and long-term goals. Surround yourself with individuals who are smarter than you are. Celebrate your successes. Last, but not least, don’t be afraid of failure, because those lessons will make you a better, well-rounded and compassionate professional.