When you first become a nurse, you never know what kinds of twists and turns your career will ultimately take. With the foundation of a nursing degree from a school like Northeastern, you can rest assured you’ll be prepared for the ride, but it can be helpful to hear from those who walked before you on the nursing path. What did they learn along the way?
For a firsthand perspective, the Northeastern Direct Entry-Hybrid program recently spent some time with Nurse Educator F. Patrick Robinson (PhD, RN, ACRN, CNE, FAAN), who began his nursing career as a care coordinator and clinical nurse specialist before shifting gears and moving into an academic role. His career path offers a great example of all the different doors a nursing degree can open, and his advice is valuable for current nursing students and for anyone contemplating a career as an RN.
Q: What initially drew you to the nursing field? Did you always know you wanted to be a nurse, or was there an “aha” moment?
Robinson: I grew up around healthcare, as my father was a physician and my mother was a nurse. So you might say that I went into the family business! I started volunteering in our local hospital when I was about 10, then worked in the hospital during high school. I always enjoyed my interactions with both nurses and patients. When it came time to pick a college major, I naturally gravitated toward nursing as something I knew would be fulfilling.
Q: Describe your career progression—where did you start out in nursing, and how did that evolve?
Robinson: I began my career at the height of the AIDS epidemic and felt compelled to serve my community in whatever capacity I could. My early career included time as an HIV/AIDS care coordinator and clinical nurse specialist. I went on to hold leadership positions in HIV/AIDS care that included positions where I was able to have really significant impact. After earning my PhD in nursing, I decided that an academic career suited me well. While pursuing a program of research and becoming a skilled teacher, I held positions as a department chair, associate dean, and eventually dean. Recently, I accepted a job in the private sector for a company that helps address healthcare workforce shortages through education. It’s interesting because it uses all the skills I’ve honed throughout my career.
Q: What do you like best about working with other nurses?
Robinson: Nurses can be incredibly generous of spirit. The best friends I’ve ever had are those I met during various phases of my professional career. While it is well documented that nurses sometimes treat each other poorly, I can attest to the fact that they can also be incredibly supportive and nurturing of each other. In fact, that has been my most common experience.
Q: What do you feel is the hardest part about being a nurse today?
Robinson: Healthcare is a rapidly changing endeavor on every front. Remaining nimble and current is a challenge for all nurses. In addition, given the fact that so many nurses work in hospitals with very sick patients, it is hard to remember that our job is to care for individuals holistically. There is never enough time, but it is so important to attend to all aspects of professional nursing care—not just those that center on managing disease. Where we often fall short is on transitioning patients out of our care in a safe and effective manner.
Q: A solid education is obviously essential, but not everything can be taught in nursing school. What do you think are the innate personality traits most important for long-term success in nursing?
Robinson: Long-term success in nursing certainly requires an ability to embrace change, because nothing is static in healthcare. You also need a commitment to lifelong learning. That part never stops, and it requires systematic planning. I believe nurses need to celebrate diversity as well, and those for whom we care must be accepted for who they are. Finally, as a nurse, you need a high tolerance for ambiguity. Nursing is seldom black and white; rather, there are infinite shades of gray! But that’s what makes the field interesting, exciting, sometimes frustrating. . . always rewarding.
For more information on the Boston Direct Entry-Hybrid Nursing Program and other NEU programs, contact our admissions team today.