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Because her father was in the U.S. Air Force, Professor Karen Oaks was living in England when she was in the 6th grade and had to have her tonsils removed.

“I was really scared. I was in the hospital the night before the surgery, and strict visiting hours meant my parents weren’t with me that night. So I ran away.”

Ran away? “Well, I tried to,” she says. “But they caught me, injected me with a sedative and literally carried me back to my room. The nurses were … let’s just say ‘very stern.’ The whole experience was so horrible that I knew right then that I needed to be a nurse.”

She adds: “I wasn’t a bad kid, just scared. But the nurses didn’t take the time or make the effort to find out why I was being difficult. So I knew that I could do a better job of nursing than that. And I set out to prove it.”

To this day, she says, “difficult” patients are her favorite. “You simply need to take the time to get to know them — and the same goes for their families — to realize what they’re going through. Once you understand, they’re not difficult.”

That approach to problems reflects Oaks’s teaching style, as well. “Bring me your problems,” she tells her students, “because problems can be solved!”

She adds: “I know how important it is to have close classroom relationships. Students know that I will help them or I will find help for them. There’s always a solution. We are all here to help our students succeed, and we do whatever it takes.”

Oaks says that Averett comprises a very friendly, small and helpful community. “The classes are small, too, and students have one-on-one sessions with their professors all the time. Here on the Riverview campus, the layout means you’re always walking by profs’ offices, always interacting. No one here is standoffish or aloof. There’s just a good feeling here, as there is on the main campus.”

Oaks is unendingly positive — about the nurse education program, the university, even the area in general: “I think that Danville is beautiful,” she adds. “There are four distinct seasons here, and I enjoy every one of them! Also, we’re only three-and-a-half hours from Virginia Beach, four hours from Atlantic Beach and about two to three hours from gorgeous mountains. We have it all!”


Master of Science, Nursing, focus in Nurse Education, Old Dominion University

Bachelor of Science, Nursing, Old Dominion University