Nurse Educator

For nurses so accustomed to working with patients on a day-to-day basis, transitioning into the world of academia can be difficult. But someone has to teach the next generation of nurses right?

Laurie Crane was already an accomplished and experienced nurse when the Department Chair of the nursing program at St. Cloud State contacted her,  since she was already pursuing a graduate degree in nursing education, she thought the experience would be perfect.

Now Crane can’t get enough of teaching, citing the ability to work with students and seeing students succeed as the primary reasons why she loves her job. It is always a treat to find someone with so much passion for their work, so read on to see what Crane has to say about her career, her work in vaccinology, and her advice for students looking to follow in her career foot steps.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career as a nurse?  Where did you work?  What departments were you working in?

I graduated from nursing school in 2000 with my BSN.  I started working at Mayo Clinic one month after graduation on a medical/nephrology unit.  I participated in various committees and roles within the unit for six years.  During that time I was able to rotate to work in the inpatient dialysis unit and provide staff education regarding peritoneal dialysis.  I spent many years working the Medical Specialty Preceptor Committee on revising the orientation process within the Medical Division.

After six years in the hospital setting, I transferred to the outpatient setting into Outpatient Dialysis.  I spent only one year in that position before I was hired into an ambulatory practice position within the Division of General Internal Medicine, specifically within the Adult Immunization Clinic.  I worked in the Immunization Clinic full-time for three years and continue to work on a casual basis since the end of 2010.  My family and I moved from Rochester, MN to St. Cloud, MN in late 2010 and I began working at the St. Cloud Hospital within their inpatient dialysis unit.

Did you have a favorite department that you liked working in? Why?

My favorite department was the Adult Immunization Clinic.  Up until that point in my career, I had mainly worked with “ill” individuals.  Administering vaccines put me on the other side of the spectrum providing preventative care.

At what point did you decide it was time to transition into an educational role?  How exactly did that happen?

My current teaching position was not something that I had been seeking out.  I had already been accepted and was about to begin graduate school and had only been working at the local hospital for five months when I received a call from the Department Chair of the Nursing Program at St. Cloud State University.  She explained that they were looking for faculty with a medical/surgical background, specifically in nephrology, to join their staff for the upcoming academic year.  They had received my name from another faculty in the department that had recommended me for the position.  I was hired into an emergency position for the 2011-2012 academic year.  Since I was pursing my graduate degree in nursing education, I felt that this was the perfect opportunity for me to enter the world of academia.

What kind of education does one need in order to become a nurse educator?

The required education differs with each program.  Those teaching in a practical nursing program must have a BSN and highly recommend a MSN.  Those teaching in an ADN program must have a BSN, MSN preferred.  Those teaching at a baccalaureate level need to be masters prepared, doctorate preferred.  Universities support all faculty obtaining a terminal degree.  To teach within a graduate program, a doctorate is preferred.

You specialize in adult immunizations and vaccinology, can you tell us a bit about your work and interests in this field?

When I began working the in Adult Immunization Clinic, I knew very little about vaccines.  I was hoping to take some staff development classes the helped prepare me better, but found that there were none.  So, I began to read.  We were provided references by Dr. Greg Poland, who is the Medical Director of the Adult Immunization Clinic and Director of the Vaccine Research Group at Mayo Clinic.  We were very quick to realize that despite receiving all recommended vaccines, we had never been personally educated regarding the vaccines we or our children had received.  It was at that point that we, the Immunization Clinic Nurses, decided that the focus of each appointment with our patients were going to focus on education.  We learned that when we had a patient that was very hesitant regarding vaccines and we were able to provide accurate, up to date information, the patients were more willing to receive the vaccines.  We quickly became the experts within our division and within the institution as well.  Dr. Poland and his staff provide monthly Vaccine Seminars to provide staff with information regarding vaccines and administration guidelines.  We began presenting at the vaccine seminars to provide a nursing perspective regarding vaccines and soon became a vaccine resource beyond the walls of the Mayo Clinic.

If a nurse were to decide to move into the professorial role of nursing as you have, what are some tips you could provide to get his or her foot in the door at the universities?

One of the main things that a professorial nurse focuses on is education.  If anyone is ever considering getting into academia, I highly recommend seeking out an adjunct clinical position.  Within this role, a BSN prepared nurse is hired into a position teaching a group of students at a clinical site.  Many times this site may be the unit that you already work on.  You work with assigned course faculty and supervise/teach the students skill surrounding patient care in the clinical setting.  This is a great way to “test the waters” of teaching and also helps gain recognition within the nursing program.  There is currently a shortage of nursing educators and we need to start recruiting nurses into this practice at an early age.

What are some things you love about being a nurse educator?

I absolutely LOVE working with the students.  They are like sponges and soak up every bit of information that you give them.  They are also very enthusiastic about what they are doing and what they accomplish.  It is such a proud moment when you see your students succeed and receive positive feedback from staff.  As faculty, it is our goal to prepare the students to practice at a level that we would be proud to work alongside.

Where do you see your career evolving from here?

I see myself staying in academia.  One of my professional goals, aside from obtaining a terminal degree, is to develop curriculum to incorporate vaccine education into nursing programs.  Currently, very little is taught regarding vaccines to nurses while in school.  They education we receive is by word of mouth from other, usually under-educated, individuals.  For my masters project, I am developing curriculum regarding adult vaccines and what nurses need to know.  This will be introduced in the Public Health course within our program.  It is my goal to then work with Dr. Poland to conduct a multi-site study incorporating vaccine education into nursing programs and then interview those individuals after they have been out practicing for a specified period of time.  This study may provide insight into whether vaccine education during nursing school will make a significant different in how vaccines are administered and the education provided.  I would also like to author a chapter, or even a textbook, pertaining to vaccines and what nurses need to know.