By WILHELMINA ZARAGOZA-ATOZ, PhD, RN
"You are a nurse educator. Your Alma Mater prepared you to be one. Remember, a nurse is not for hire."-Dean Evangelina M. Dumlao
While preparing to write this article, I hoped I might have a dream on which to anchor my thoughts, but failed to have one. As I stretched my mind, memories began popping in one by one, providing me a unique experience with my adviser-cum-mentor. The past experiences I am about to reveal are part of my own story, and past events have affected my present.
The one vivid time i met the woman who epitomized what I want to be was more than 40 years ago. She was giving me an exit interview, signing the credentials i needed before taking the nurse board examination. I remember vividly what my adviser, my dean, my mentor said before we parted, "You are a nurse educator. Your Alma Mater prepared you to be one."
The impression that her words made on me has remained in my long-term memory bank. She clearly knows what she wants and is intelligent, full of wit and direct to the point. Her facial expression was that of a woman educator worthy of a portrait gallery of nurse leaders. I discovered that somehow in my mentor 's presence I had come to a life-shaping decision. I told myself, I am going into nursing education. I want to be a nurse educator." And a nurse educator I became. A dream actualized by someone for someone!
To go forward, as I hope this article makes manifest, there is a need to go back to my glimpse of hopes and dreams of a "servant leader." In my lowly role as a student nurse applicant then,I had just returned from my oral competition in my public speaking class. The words of the dean of College of Education in UE Manila were still fresh in my mind: "Why not become a teacher, instead of a nurse?" as she posted the schedule of interviews for student nurse applicants.
Hungry to impress my panel of interviewers, I arrived a little early. Two things immediately struck me.
First, I could not help but notice the dynamic atmosphere of the interview room. You could sense the energy that the panel of interviewers (my soon to be adviser-dean included) radiated as they notice your entrance into the interview room and look at you from head to toe.
Second, the faculty obviously worked hard at making its student applicant feel valued with questions such as, "What do you bring to this institution thatcan make you a successful nurse?" "Would you like to actualize your talent?" "What is the recent book that you have read?" "Would you like to share your thoughts on this issue?"
I caught myself thinking on my way out "It must be nice to study in a place where your talents are valued. I need to stay in this school."
"When are you coming back to your Alma Mater?" was a second exit interview question that caught me off-guard. I gave the interviewer a smile but not a date. It took me 30 years honing my talents and attitude in the land of my birth before I was led to my Alma Mater. And she was there waiting!
How close was the interaction between me and myadviser-dean? Close enough to share bits and pieces of personal teachable moments. Does she know me well enough to trust my capabilities and loyalty to my Alma Mater? She started calling me by my first name when I became a senior and a student headnurse in the pediatric ward, then started calling me by my nickname after I became a graduate of UERM. Truly, the gradual loosening of the tight professional line between student and teacher, of the adviser-dean relationship, you just have to know it did not happen by accident. It happened because of the principles and spirit of servant leadership.
My last mentoring session encounter with my adviser was at the breakfast table in her residence three years ago. It was an event of reaching out. I consider myself very privileged to listen and have a glimpse of one personal moment of her life. I do believe that this encounter was not by accident but purposefully driven. She had unlocked one secret of a great decision-maker and leader, as we were in the period of 2006 to 2008, considered as nearer the dark side of nursing.
"I cannot emphasize this enough," she said. "Nursing is not actually my first choice of a career, but when I received my acceptance letter, I told myself that to stay in nursing was a decision I had to make. Once I owned that decision, I had to give my best to uphold it," she continued. And everything flowed from that first decision. and in every freshman orientation I have toshare this thought with students and parents.
"Given a choice between talent and attitude," she continued further, "I will take attitude every time. People with a good attitude are usually team players. In the nursing profession you need team players."
"What if you have a person under your wing who is full of talent but lacks the right attitude?" I said to myself.
"Why don't you ask me about what you are thinking, Winnie? I can read your mind!" she noticed. "If you compromise with negative persons, other people around you will learn the bad habit of discontentment.
" Imagine yourself sipping a cup of coffee, eating a slice of pork chop, fried egg and garlic rice, caught in this mentor-mentee onversation. And so I asked the dreaded question: "What if a 'star ' faculty member has a problem attitude, of being discontent?"
"That person may not have a learner 's heart," was her quick response.
"What would you do, Dean?" I asked again.
"Winnie, eat your pork chops," was her reply.
I wondered: Why was her answer evasive? Or was it? Yes! I got you, dean! My dean, my mentor, my adviser has added the value of wit and humor to her memorable qualities!
"Thank you, Winnie. Thank you for coming today. Remember what we shared on your exit interview?"
Yes, Dean: A NURSE IS NOT FOR HIRE