dean_nursing_katherine_howeMrs. Katherine Howe, the newly appointed Dean of Nursing at Henry Ford Community College has graciously granted The NET Study Guide an interview. She answers many questions that are at the forefront of nursing today as well as offering advice for those interested in joining the nursing profession and for student nurses as well. We thank her for her precious time and for the wisdom she shares.
Mrs. Howe holds a Master of Science in Nursing, with a specialization in Women’s health, Masters of Education, and BSN.

1. Can you tell us about your background, and what circumstances in your life lead you into nursing?
“Well, my mother was a nurse, and I grew up admiring her compassion and profession. At the age of sixteen I sought out jobs in the hospital settings. I was a hospital volunteer and also worked in central supply. I have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and two Master Degrees, one in Education and the other in Women’s Health, which I pursed to advance my standing in the nursing education field. I found at an early age that not only did I love the nursing profession, but I also loved to teach.”

2. Why Henry Ford Community College?
“Upon moving to Michigan, and finishing my Masters in Nursing in Women’s Health, I found that not only was Henry Ford Community College close to my home, it was also had a very good reputation at producing excellent nurses. I have been here since 1979, starting off as a clinical instructor, and then moving into a full time nursing instructor position.”

3. What do you think about the program and with your new position as Dean of the Nursing Division and what changes would you like to see being made?

“Initially, I am not looking to make any great changes. I expect this to be a learning experience for me and I will take it one step at a time. We need to keep abreast of current knowledge and update the curriculum as needed. The nursing knowledge base is ever increasing and we as educators must incorporate this new knowledge into the classroom. I am looking forward to this challenge.”

4. What do you feel that a student who is considering going into the nursing field, should consider most important?
“The person who is considering going into the nursing profession must realize that it is a very difficult program and that it requires dedication and time. Lots of time! They need to look at their current circumstances. For instance, a young person who still lives at home and has the financial support of their family may just as well go for their Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Whereas, the individual who is a single parent and also working, may consider the Associate Degree in Nursing, to begin their career. The individual must look at the various nursing schools NCLEX® passing rates. There are many factors to consider.”

5. What makes Henry Ford’s program differ from others?
“Henry Ford doesn’t have the 3.8 grade point average requirement that some schools have. I believe that this is actually a deterrent to those who truly love the nursing profession but are not straight A’s across the board. Henry Ford’s Nursing School reputation is one of excellence. We also have one of the highest percentage of male nursing students in the state. I believe that it is around 14% currently.”

6. Many students’ complain about the ambiguity of test questions in the nursing programs and their difficulty. What advice can you give to student nurses in the program in regards to this issue?
“We all start out in our lives critically thinking; it is just that we don’t ever look at everyday decisions in that respect. Nursing test questions try to get the individual to critically think about a given situation. For instance, if given a particular situation what would happen if you were to do this, instead of something else, and what would the end result be? Anyone can practice critical thinking, by just taking everyday situations that come naturally to us, and then stop and ask themselves, why am I doing this a particular way, and what would happen if I did this another way. We also have many supplements for the nursing student as far as practicing how to take test and critically think.”

7. What do you see happening in the job market as far as nursing is concerned?
“I think that the job market for nursing runs in cycles. For instance, currently there is a high demand for nurses. Perhaps in a few more years the demand for nurses will not be as high, but for those in nursing right now, the field is wide open. It is an amazing field to be in, with so many possibilities to choose from. One of my former students actually went into to a specialty field of “medical art therapy”.

8. Do you advocate that all student nurses continue for their BSN?
“I am an advocate of higher learning and continuing education. When I went for my Bachelors Degree, I learned more about pathophysiology and when I studied for my Master’s I gained an even deeper knowledge about advanced pathophysiology, and genetics. I read in the paper about a woman in her eighties who went back to school for her master’s degree, and when she was asked why she did it, she replied, “because I could”. That is inspiring! I would also recommend that nurses learn the Spanish language. It is the most widely spoken language in the world next to English”

9. How do you feel that student nurses can best prepare for the NCLEX®?
“They need to study the books out there regarding NCLEX® review. I would advise those who are studying for the test, to first read the correct answers, then go back and try to understand the reasoning for the wrong answers. In this way, the student can relate the important concepts to each of the questions, and study, study, study.

10. What is the percentage of people that fall out of the program, and what are the most common reasons that this occurs?
“Our nursing program graduates about 70% of the initial freshman class. That’s a pretty good average. There are those that fall out of the program for various reasons, but that’s not counting all of those that come back into the program. We are very proud of our graduates.”

11. Hass the image of the nurse improved over time, and what do you see the image is currently?
“Absolutely! The image of the nurse has gone from being a doctor’s hand maiden to being in the front line. As a nurse practitioner they would see the patient first, do a thorough assessment and then report any abnormal findings to the doctor.” The image of the nurse has definitely improved over time.

12. Nurses now have a great responsibility as far as what is expected of them, do you foresee more autonomy for nurses in the future, i.e., those with advanced degrees?
“Yes, I believe so. Advancement of knowledge in the nursing field has now become very scientific. Nurses are now required to take many science courses, such as pharmacology, chemistry and such. These courses build critical thinking for the evidenced based practice of nursing. There is so much more that nurse’s have to know these days with all of the new technology and equipment being used in hospitals and various areas of medicine. These advancements dictate that nurses seek advanced degrees in practice. I forsee nurses gaining more autonomy in the future.”

13. What type oaf action is necessary to see total autonomy take place?
“The medical arena is principally governed by the American Medical Association®. For instance, a Physicians Assistant is only able to practice within the scope of the Physician that they are working under, whereas a Nurse Practitioner has a license to practice autonomously. I believe that there will be a greater need for Advanced Practice Nurses in the front line.”

14. Finally, what do you like most about teaching, and do you have any thing you would like to share with the readers?
“When I look at the bright eyes of a freshman class of student nurses, it is so exciting to see their eagerness. Then, as they are standing in their pressed uniforms with their new shoes at the nurse station on the first day of clinical, I can see how terrified they are about going into a patient’s room for the first time. I have to gently push them like a mother hen, and tell them it will be alright.

I remember one of my freshman student’s cried after giving her first shot, then two years later, she was caring for six patients or more, critically thinking and handling all aspects of their care, she came out of the room and looked at me, and said, “Mrs. Howe, I don’t cry any more when I give a shot.” I get goose bumps when I think of it; as a matter of fact I am getting goose bumps right now. Watching these student nurses grow and change into competent caring professionals is as much of a thrill as it was seeing each new baby being born.

Katherine A. Howe RNC, MSN, MEd, WHNP
Nursing Instructor
Program Coordinator
Henry Ford Community College
5101 Evergreen
Dearborn, Michigan 48128
Direct: (313) 845-6366
Tel: (800) 585-HFCC
khowe@hfcc.edu

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