What Has Your Nursing Education Done for You?

Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Thank you for joining us as we pave our way into the blogging world. Let me introduce myself, since I’m not someone you’ll see very often at the School of Nursing.

I received my BSN from the University of Texas School of Nursing in 1994 and worked actively for 10 years, specializing in neonatal intensive care and education. I currently reside in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Following the birth of my second child, I have pursued other avenues of nursing by becoming involved in the UTSoN Alumni Network, volunteering at Girl Scout camps and events as the service unit nurse, proof-reading and editing research and volunteering with medical-related events within my school district. I can tell you from personal experience that volunteer nurses are greatly appreciated in the community!

I served as the 2011–12 chair of the University of Texas School of Nursing Alumni Network. (Sheeez, hope I never have to say they too often or too fast!) I have had the pleasure of meeting Dean Alexa Stuifbergen on several occasions and getting to work with a great team of advisers at the School of Nursing, including Andria Brannon, director of development.

I had really big shoes to fill as Jim O’Neil, the past and inaugural president of the Alumni Network, stepped down in September 2011. Jim’s constant dedication and leadership created an environment where alumni were encouraged to develop a lifelong tie with students, other graduates, staff, the nursing school and the university.

As I humbly accepted the torch, I eagerly looked forward to making my imprint within the organization as I aimed to further our social media influence and attract and sustain the younger generation, while gently encouraging the mature generation to embrace technology.

The school quite graciously accepted our support, and I would encourage anyone seeking professional satisfaction beyond your patient-based world to consider serving your alma mater. We need young, recently educated, social media-apt minds and knowledgeable, experienced and seasoned nurses as well.

Now a quick history lesson … rumor has it that an alumni organization once existed at the UTSoN, but not until 2009 was an organized effort led to develop a “new” network to connect students and graduates. The organization surfaced from a committee of current, new and old students created to host the 2010 Grande Alumnae Reunion.

The reunion was a fabulous success, including a guided tour of the nursing building, presentations and research from some of the brightest nursing students, a luncheon complete with a visit from the Longhorn Alumni Band and finally a gala celebration held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on campus.

The event embraced graduates and encouraged them to return to their alma mater for a weekend of fellowship and recognition. They were enlightened and mesmerized by the high-tech changes that have occurred over the years. I graduated in 1994 and was absolutely awestruck by the advancements. Some of my favorites included the simulation labs, learning center and the iClickers.

The simulation lab and skills lab boast seven rooms with a total of 25 beds, allowing students the opportunity to practice nursing skills and work with the equipment, often guided by lab staff and computer enhanced scenarios. No more practicing on “real” patients or sticking your lab partner.

The school has also integrated a learning center complete with a library, computers with online medical information and databases and a highly educated staff to assist faculty, staff and students. Bye Bye PCL!

In 2010 students were required to purchase an iClicker, which is an instant response system or remote designed to test and poll students during lectures. Gone are the days of sleeping through your 8 a.m. anatomy class. Today there is an app that instantly turns your cell phone into the clicker.

So why the dedication? I will be forever grateful to the University of Texas for my stellar education and college experience. I truly believe my education is the foundation in which I have built my life. I enjoyed marching in the Longhorn Band, experienced living on campus at Kinsolving, crammed for midterms on many UT shuttle rides to campus, embraced sorority life, trudged into the UT Health Center for a sore throat and completed clinicals at area hospitals. I even remember the pleasure of sitting in then Professor Stuifbergen’s Adult Health class.

Today, I enjoy coming back to the university to watch home football games in a stadium that holds well over 100,000 people. A far cry from the 1990 “Shock the Nation” tour when Texas played Houston, and UT athletics attempted to squeeze in 75,000 people with additional grand stands added onto the running track!

My education allowed me to join the U.S. Air Force in 1995, where I had the pleasure of serving my country for a total of eight years as a NICU nurse and flight nurse. I left the USAF as a Captain. I have worked in the NICU, PICU, post-partum, gyn onc and enjoyed teaching childbirth classes in the Air Force auditorium to over 50 couples each session.

I was flight-certified in 1996 and transported preterm babies as little as 24 weeks from Level I Air Force base nurseries to Wilford Hall’s Level III. What an experience!

All thanks to a nationally recognized education, research-enriched environment and the rigorous curriculum I received at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. I beam with pride and gratitude for a nursing school and university that has given me so much!

So … what has your nursing education done for you?

Stay tuned. This year I hope to join other Longhorn Nursing blog contributors and write about topics I hope will interest you.

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