Nicole Collins, M.S. ’21, R.N., comes from a family of teachers—her mother taught high school for 35 years—so she naturally grew up considering a career in education. But after deciding to major in nursing at Salve Regina University, she fell in love with a profession that helps people in a different way.
Still, the teaching bug never quite went away. Inspired by the nurse educators who guided her through a two-year fellowship at a busy New York City emergency department, she enrolled in Worcester State’s M.S. in Nursing, Nurse Educator Specialization program, from which she will graduate this May.
“I learned so much from them. This was a Level I trauma center, and these dedicated E.R. nurses kept us laughing and crying the same time. It was emotionally and physically draining,” she says. In addition to teaching quick decision-making skills, they showed her the importance of being adaptable, calm, and prepared, and how to work as a team. And most importantly, to always keep learning.
“Nursing school was a huge struggle for me. Now that I’m in a teaching role, it all flooded back what it’s like to be a nursing student, dealing with life and death and suffering,” says Collins, who is a staff nurse at St. Vincent Hospital’s Emergency Room, where she has worked since 2014. “I asked myself, what can I do for the future of nursing to make it easier for other students? I always loved school, and I’m really interested in getting other students excited about learning.”
She also wants to attract a more diverse group of nurses to the profession, including those from underrepresented groups.
“First of all, there’s outreach—just letting someone know you can pursue nursing as a career, helping them figure out the balancing act required to juggle family life and their education. And then there’s the financial piece—some just don’t have the financial means, and how do we make education more accessible?” she says.
Collins sees her future in academia, perhaps as a nursing professor, where she can drink in the energy of students willing to embark on this challenging career.
“I just feed off their enthusiasm to learn. I love to try to take some thing so complex and abstract, solidify it, and have it make sense to them. The ‘ah hah’ moment, that’s really cool,” she says.
Collins will share more words of wisdom as the keynote speaker at the virtual Graduate Commencement Ceremony, which will be released at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 15. Graduate students are also invited to the Campus Commencement Experience, on Friday, May 14, 5-7 p.m., and Saturday, May 15, 1-3 p.m. Additional information, including how to participate, and expectations for students and audience members, can be found on the Graduate Commencement webpage: https://www.worcester.edu/Graduate-Commencement/
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