"Nurse Education is not about you," Dr. Mary Condon tells prospective nursing students, "it is about the person at the end of your hand."
With the patients' health always as the goal, Dr. Condon also offers some unexpected advice: "If you're going to become a nurse, you need to have fun in college!"
That's right … she said, "You need to have fun." Her explanation makes sense — life as a nurse is challenging as well as rewarding. It requires midnight shifts … and tremendous dedication, "so you need to have your fun while you're in college. You'll never have the chance to play college sports again, so if you want to play volleyball or soccer [or whatever] and study nursing, do it." In other words grab all the gusto you can.
In general, Condon always emphasizes the positive "We want students who have a positive attitude and who demonstrate compassion. We want them to be intellectually curious and hard working. But they also need to have a sense of humor. I tell them, don't get up each morning ready to eat nails. Be ready to laugh."
Dr. Condon herself tends to see the glass not as half full, but as half- to three quarters-full. You can do it all, she feels — keep up your grades and play sports, go out, make new friends. Then come to the nurse education classrooms to learn by doing in new labs and with high-tech simulation patients that are designed to respond just like human patients yet provide a safe learning environment.
"Our goal is to prevent mistakes. However, if student makes a mistake, it's much better that it occur in the labs," she says. "That's why we have simulation programming here. You can learn through hands-on experiences; yet if you do make an error, it won't cause harm."
The simulation approach also trains students in the importance of teamwork. "We've made it into one big suite, combining all sorts of things in one room – ICU, a birthing bed, neonatal, etc. — all together, so nursing students all talk to each other. Teamwork. It's so important. Errors occur when team communications fail."
Come in, have fun, gain hands-on experience, and we'll all learn from it. That is the basis of Dr. Condon's motto for students: "Come as you are, leave as you should be."
Graduate, Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration, Bryn Mawr College
Doctor of Philosophy, Nursing, Adelphi University
Master of Science, Nursing, State University of New York at Buffalo
Bachelor of Science, Nursing, State University of New York at Buffalo
More than 23 years of military nursing experience in the Army Reserve