In the university system where I currently teach, there are many financial issue and programs, staff, and faculty are being cut as the system strives to save millions of dollars over the next year or so. In a recent meeting I attended, comments were made to the effect that the public may in part agree with the cuts, as there are some who view faculty as “privileged” to do things like teach a few courses/ year, not work weekends, and have entire summers off for leisure time. When I heard this statement, I immediately thought of how similar this is to what we hear as nurses, people wonder what we it is exactly we do. I recall being a new graduate nurse and my friend asking me what exactly it was that I did for 12 hours in the hospital on night shift.
We need to educate folks not only about the many requirements placed on faculty beyond the process of developing and delivering innovative, pertinent, and interesting educational experiences. Grading hundreds of papers and providing quality support and feedback takes time, focus, and commitment. For instance, last semester I graded 125 papers (5-10 pages in length) in one course alone, and a total of over 225 papers for the semester (not including drafts that I looked at), along with weekly discussion and reflection grades. And of course we do service, committee work, update our knowledge, attend conferences, present at conferences and within communities, write papers/grants, research, work on program specific and university wide accreditation processes, advising students (and often on not only academic progress), supporting student clubs, etc. The public needs to know about faculty governance, and how faculty are key members in supporting and facilitating change in educational settings and systems. I recall being on the fringes of the system even as a nursing student, and not really understanding the faculty role until as an MSN student until I was a student representative on a faculty committee; then I began to see the complexity and the stress the educator’s work can create.
And as faculty we are charged with creating supportive learning environments and communities of learners on campus. Because we teach nurses, a population who are often stressed by the many demands placed on them, we need to become the role models of health, wellness, and stress management. I dream of the day when part of the tenure process requires the educator to demonstrate how they better care for their students by caring for themselves. I have the recent amazing experience myself where students organized their own self-care fair which was open to the public and the campus community. The students organized classes and experiences for all to try: massage, Reiki, aromatherapy, yoga, chakradance, meditation, blood pressure screenings, and healthy food choices. While I did little to organize the event, I advised the student clubs who did run the event and I found the Reiki practitioners and provided Reiki for many students and faculty. you can read more about this event here: http://www.uma.edu/rn-bsn.html#program-highlights
I mention this event because the students experienced a great deal of success and fulfillment in the process of designing this event, and they also stated that it was role modelling of the faculty that lead them to put so much effort in this direction, to create a meaningful campus-community event, where learning was experienced by all.
Did I miss something about what educators do and our importance and value in the greater community and global society? We support the greater economy by providing the marketplace with educated leaders capable of creating social change and transformation in systems. At our best, we facilitate healing and self-actualization experiences for our students, some very priceless acts.
So the next time somebody mentions the “easy” work of university educators, what will you say? Will you let them know that your summers are filled with researching, writing, updating, presenting, advising students, answering the never-ending emails, and perhaps, yes, even teaching? Will you share with them both the challenges and the amazing joys you experience? Will you help create a greater consciousness around the value of the experienced and dedicated excellent educator that you are? Will you grow the global consciousness of how as nurses we care for ourselves with even more depth over the summer so we return to our work in the fall with enthusiasm, love, and caring for our students?