by Mark McGowan
Another nursing professor from NIU has received a prestigious Nurse Educator Fellowship Award from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
Karen Baldwin joins 14 nursing faculty from around the state, along with NIU School of Nursing and Health Studies colleagues and charter Fellows Judith Hertz and Donna Ploncyznski, in the program created to ensure the retention of well-qualified nursing educators.
Baldwin will receive $10,000 to further her work as a teacher and researcher. She plans to attend national (and perhaps international) conferences and to purchase the latest in texts on obstetric and neonatal health care, her specialty for 30 years.
“It’s the best field in nursing,” she said. “It’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s fulfilling. It’s dynamic. Plus, our patients are really cute.”
She also is contemplating the purchase of technology to make some of the classroom exercises “more attractive” to the students.
“There are a lot of things I can do to become better, and this gives me the opportunity to do just that,” said Baldwin, who came to NIU in 1997. “There are absolutely fantastic things going on nationally and internationally in evidence-based teaching and problem-based learning. If I can interact with these experts and learn from them, then my lectures and discussions will become even more evidence-based. I’m going to translate that learning into even-better teaching.”
Brigid Lusk, chair of the school housed in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said Baldwin “is an outstanding teacher in that she really creates innovative learning experiences for our students.”
“She does this cute thing called ‘Friday Night in the ER’ – she teaches pediatric nursing content – and all the students have to wear scrubs. She throws scenarios at them, and they have to role-play. That’s a big hit,” Lusk said. “In an exercise called ‘Fetal Monitoring Art Gallery,’ she teaches fetal monitoring strips by posting these miles of strips all around the building. On the day of lesson, the corridors are packed with students poring over these strips, trying to figure out what they mean.”
Recipients of the nursing fellowships collaborate with the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the Illinois Center for Nursing, assist in reviewing nomination materials for future fellows and participate in conferences. They also must participate in statewide nursing advocacy and prepare final reports that describe their fellowship experiences.
Illinois, like other states, is suffering from a critical lack of nurses and nursing educators.
In Baldwin’s case, the teaching comes naturally. Only a year after her own graduation, she began serving as a preceptor for new nurses, essentially a clinical teaching position. After earning her master’s degree in family health nursing, she started teaching in nursing schools as a clinical nursing specialist.
So does the learning.
Unlike some disciplines, she said, it’s critical for nurses and their professors to remain on the cutting edge of new research. Baldwin’s own scholarship concentrates on patient outcomes, quality of care and the use of electronic medical records, an area that’s evolving.
“We have to be current, and even if our teaching is incrementally better, it’s better,” she said. “Students are getting smarter, and we have to get smarter, too.”
Nonetheless, Baldwin said she did not expect the state’s honor.
“I was really very surprised,” she said. “There are so many good teachers out there.”