Jie Chen has come a long way to be here at NIU’s School of Nursing, and she knows many of her students have as well. It’s that keen understanding of the student experience that led to her earning a 2018 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award at NIU.
Chen began her career as a cardiac surgical nurse in her native China. “When I was a student, I never thought I’d be a teacher. I was afraid to speak to teachers,” she said. But she encountered teachers who were inspirational, caring and who built her confidence. That’s something very important for students to see from their faculty, she said.
“We have a responsibility to identify and recognize students’ potential and show them our belief in them. I think that’s a very effective way to motivate students to reach their goals,” Chen said.
Now an associate professor of nursing, she began teaching at NIU in 2009. Chen has carefully designed her courses and consistently supported her students, helping them achieve success. Since her students in the beginning of their nursing studies, she takes care to help them build confidence while also emphasizing critical thinking skills. Because nursing is fast-paced and technology changes frequently, memorizing facts from a textbook or PowerPoint isn’t enough to make a successful nurse.
“Students cannot remember everything they learn. I try to teach them clinical reasoning—I think that is the most important skill to learn in the nursing program,” Chen said.
Just as she enjoyed talking with patients, she now relishes speaking to students. “Part of the joy I have in teaching is interacting with students. When they come to my office and talk about their personal lives, it’s really special,” Chen said. “It’s a powerful motivation for me. I want them to be successful and love being a nurse.”
Her teaching approach resonates with her students. Her teaching strategies have been credited for inspiring students to formulate study groups as well as to become nursing success program tutors.
“It takes a dedicated professor to create many successful and knowledgeable students. She has truly made a difference in my nursing education journey," said former student Shareny Mota (’18).
Her colleagues agree that Chen is inspirational.
“Dr. Chen is an inspiration to both students and teachers alike. She also always creates a safe learning environment where students are able to ask questions. Dr. Chen has empowered countless students with the confidence and knowledge to make a difference in both families’ and patients' lives," said Jamie Meyer, an NIU associate professor of speech-language pathology.
Nancy Valentine, interim chair of the NIU School of Nursing, said educating future nurses to become tomorrow’s teachers is also important. Chen sets an excellent example.
“Teaching is a skill but the passion for wanting others to learn cannot be learned—it must come from the heart. Dr. Chen has demonstrated her dedication and passion to the craft of teaching and as such is a role model for other faculty as well as for her students,” said Valentine.
But Chen’s successes expand beyond the classroom.
Previously an occupational health nurse, she has maintained her interest in that field, devoting research to workplace ergonomics, nurses’ workload and patient handling devices.
She applied innovative approaches to measure the physiological impact of workload on nurses working 12-hour shifts and provided empirical data to quantify nursing workload. She revealed acute fatigue as being more severe than chronic fatigue in hospital nurses and recognized the nursing work activities that contribute most to nurses' acute fatigue at work.
In 2017, Chen and her research partners received NIU Research & Artistry Grant, the Joan E. Wood Nursing Research Grant and the NIOSH Pilot Project Research Training Program Grant for a series of projects in evaluating patient-handling devices for promoting health and safety in nurses and patients.Recently Chen was selected as one of 19 Nurse Educator Fellows by the Illinois Board of Higher Education for 2017-2018 in honor of her achievement and commitment to quality and innovative teaching in nursing undergraduate education.