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Meet April Stidham: MSN Program Director at South University, Tampa

by South University
January 9, 2018
An image of a healthcare professional assisting a woman.

All of her life, April Stidham, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C, has been drawn to the career of nursing. Even as child, she watched hospital shows like Emergency!, admiring the nurse featured on the show, Nurse Dixie. "She possessed self-confidence, self-assuredness, professionalism, and intelligence. I admired her leadership and interaction with patients, emergency responders, and doctors," she recalls.

Today, Stidham is the Program Director for the MSN Family Nurse Practitioner programs at South University, Tampa, and has 35 years of experience practicing in Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, and Florida.

She got started in the field right out of high school with an associate’s degree program in nursing, earning her degree at 19 and her RN license by age 20. As her responsibilities grew and she took on more administrative roles, Stidham continued her education, earning a BSN in 1995 and completing an MSN-FNP program in 1997.

Over the course of her career, Stidham has worked in several internal medical practices as well as a variety of hospital departments, long-term care settings, and family health clinics. She has had numerous peer-publications and professional presentations, helped to secure a handful of research grants, and been involved in almost a dozen clinical studies.

"I love being a nurse practitioner," she says. "I try to empower my patients through education and letting them take charge and responsibility of managing their health, with me being there to offer support as their primary care provider."

Over time, her interest in educating patients evolved into a desire to educate students as well. She first dabbled in teaching after earning her MSN and taking on adjunct faculty roles from 1998 to 2000 and then 2003 to 2006 at the University of Virginia. These experiences inspired her to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2011 and to pursue additional teaching opportunities.

"I wanted to be able to teach students and give back what I had learned over the years from my nursing career as an RN and as an advanced practice nurse," she explains.

Equipped with her DNP, Stidham accepted a position at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), where she served as an Assistant Professor and later DNP Coordinator over a 5-year period, teaching and developing courses from the bachelor’s to doctoral level.

While there, she was also a family nurse practitioner in the ETSU Nurse Managed Clinics, including the University Student Health Center and Johnson City Community Health Center—providing primary care to uninsured or underinsured adults with multiple chronic conditions and acute and chronic diseases in rural northeast Tennessee. Within these clinics, she ran an interprofessional, student-led clinic, with the university’s DNP, BSN, pharmacy, nutrition, social work, clinical psychology, and medical students. She earned the ETSU College of Nursing Nurse of the Year – Service Award in 2014 and the Nurse of the Year – Practice Award in 2015.

In 2017, Stidham joined South University as Program Director for Tampa's MSN programs. In her role as a mentor and instructor, Stidham enjoys getting to know and interact with each of her MSN students. "It is very rewarding to see my advanced practice nursing students grow, mature, transition to using their new knowledge, and eventually gain confidence in managing patient care," she says.

Being a good nurse, she believes, is in large part driven simply by having the compassion, caring, and desire to take care of others. Education and mentorship are also important keys to success, she advises.

"The best way for a nursing professional to grow their skills and their career is to establish a good relationship with an experienced nurse, to listen to and accept constructive feedback, and to allow yourself to gain experience and confidence as a nurse before moving to the next level of higher education."

Want to know more about the nursing programs and faculty at South University? Explore our College of Nursing and Public Health today!

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OTA Program Director Terrie Nolinske Has Made Her Career Combining Science & Creativity

by South University
November 13, 2017
An image of a healthcare professional assisting a woman.

For Terrie Nolinske, PhD, OTR/L, the South University, Tampa Chair of the College of Health Professions and Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program, the mix of applying scientific knowledge with creative problem-solving is what first drew her to the occupational therapy profession.

"Occupational therapy requires an extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and medical conditions, but also requires the therapist to be very creative in engaging the client in the OT process," she explains.

Expertise & Experience in Occupational Therapy

As an occupational therapist, Nolinske has 40+ years of experience in evaluation and rehabilitation for burns, cancer, orthopedics, arthritis and neurology with individuals of all ages. She has worked with patients in their homes, community centers, hospitals, mental health centers, rehabilitation centers, schools, and communities for independent living, assisted living, and memory care.

"I enjoy the challenge of quickly assessing the strengths and limitations of new clients, finding out what’s important to them, and working with them to establish a unique plan of care and timeline for achieving treatment goals," she says. "Coming up with activities that are meaningful to the individual and that will keep them engaged and successful at each step and every session, that is where the creativity comes in."

Administratively, she has served as the Director of Occupational Therapy in a 450-bed hospital in Chicago as well as Chair of the Physical Disabilities Special Interest Section for the Americation Occupational Therapy Association, a role in which she developed educational procedures and a research symposium for thousands of therapists nationwide.

Educating Students, Peers, Patients, and the Public

Nolinske has long been an educator, from supervisory positions guiding the development of occupational therapists, to teaching patients how to achieve independence in daily tasks, to supervising students in the classroom and on externships.

Her first university position came in 1978 at Northwestern University Medical School’s Prosthetics-Orthotics Center. As an Associate and Assistant Director, in addition to teaching lectures and labs, she created orthotics course manuals and instituted the use of case studies and problem-based learning across courses. Since then, Nolinske has taught at numerous universities, even spending a semester teaching in Poland in 2002. In 2012, she joined South University, Tampa and founded our Occupational Therapy Assistant program.

Her educational experience outside the classroom is no less extensive, including working in textbook publishing and serving as editor for a national occupational therapy newsletter with a weekly circulation of 60,000. As an occupational therapy expert, she has led large organizations like the Lincoln Park Zoo and Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry in creating entirely new experiences for people with disabilities , ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to learn, engage, and interact with their surroundings.

She has also written over 150 articles for magazines, technical publications, peer-reviewed journals, and newspapers and has been elected into the prestigious National Association of Science Writers.

Nolinske's Teaching Philosophy

As an educator, Nolinske is committed to incorporating activities for all learning styles. In her classes, she uses lectures, discussions on current events in healthcare, individual and group work, demonstrations, hands-on activities, presentations, case studies, and role playing. She encourages everyone to participate and openly discuss their differing viewpoints. Doing so, she believes, will help to develop the communication, creativity, and problem-solving abilities of her students—skills that are essential for working in occupational therapy.

"I want all students to feel welcome and to always be connecting what they learn to their past knowledge and personal experiences. I also aim to instill curiosity, so that my students are questioning what they learn and asking why something works (or doesn’t)," she says. "I take great joy in seeing my students do things like considering context, embracing diversity, challenging assumptions, and exploring alternative possibilities."

Explore our Occupational Therapy Assistant program today, or learn more about how you can change lives by working in occupational therapy.

See for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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Occupational Therapy Careers: Changing Lives and Communities

by South University
October 31, 2017
An image of a healthcare professional assisting a woman.

From working with individual patients to making public spaces more accessible to all, occupational therapy professionals have a profound opportunity to change lives. Within this field, both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants play critical roles in helping people recover and cope with illness and injury, as well as regain and maintain functional independence in their day-to-day tasks.

"The occupational therapy field attracts compassionate, caring professionals who will go to the mat to be the advocate for their clients. We're very caring people. That is the core of what we do," says Terrie Nolinske, the Director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Tampa.

The Power of One-on-One Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy professionals work with patients to assess their strengths and needs before developing diverse treatment plans unique to each individual. From there, they monitor and work with patients to help them achieve their goals, documenting progress as it occurs. Occupational therapy can involve working with patients across the lifespan and include:

  • Helping children with disabilities lead a more fulfilling life
  • Providing recovery plan and treatment regimens for adults
  • Assisting older adults with physical and cognitive changes
  • Recommending adaptive equipment and instruct patients on its use
  • Performing patient evaluations and ongoing patient care

Occupational therapy professionals may work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, a patient’s home, mental health centers, rehabilitation centers, community centers, schools, and continuum of care communities offering independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Occupational therapy assistants operate under the supervision of licensed occupational therapists, and both therapists and their assistants may collaborate frequently with other care providers, such as psychologists, social workers, physicians, and speech pathologists.

Occupational Therapy Expertise Applied on a Bigger Scale

Those who study occupational therapy and understand the needs of individuals with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses can also apply their knowledge to improve the accessibility of everyday spaces. For example, occupational therapists may collaborate with employers to create work environments that accommodates their employees’ needs. Other occupational therapists may provide support in designing parks, shopping centers, and other public areas to ensure that everyone can equally experience and enjoy these destinations.

Nolinske, for example, has applied her occupational therapy knowledge to support both the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, she spearheaded a Universal Access Initiative which included developing new hands-on programs for zoo visitors with special needs, introducing additional tactile elements across exhibits, and writing staff guidelines on how to assist people with disabilities. Through this project, she led the zoo to win a national accessibility award.

In 2004, at the Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry, she led the creation of a 13,700-sq. foot interactive exhibit, The Amazing You, which explored key stages in the journey through life, including developmental milestones as well as common health issues and their treatment.

For Nolinkse, the project tapped into everything she’d done, learned, and experienced throughout her career. Designed to be accessible to all ages and abilities, all visitors left with a better understanding of human development, from birth to death.

"The end of life area of the exhibition prompted visitors to talk about what they would do 'if.' What would they put into a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare? Would they seek treatment or not if the cure was worse than the disease?" Nolinske explains. "It was an incredibly powerful exhibit."

Prepare for Your Career in Occupational Therapy

If you're interested in preparing for a career in the occupational therapy field, explore our Occupational Therapy programs online or contact us today at 1.800.688.0932.

See for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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Meet Cathryn Baack: South University, Cleveland Graduate Nursing Program Director

by South University
October 30, 2017
Dr. Cathyrn Baack.

Officially, Cathryn Baack (PhD, APRN, FNP-C, CPNP-Retired) has been a nurse since 1986. As a caregiver, her experience goes back even farther. When she was 14, she served as a nursing assistant in a local nursing home. Before that, she helped to care for a family member with disabilities.

"It never crossed my mind that I would do anything but nursing," reflects Dr. Baack, now Assistant Professor and Program Director for the Graduate Nursing Programs at South University, Cleveland.

After starting her nursing career in a CCU step down unit and then working in long term care, Baack spent over a decade in pediatric nursing, an area she was drawn to while raising her own daughter with special needs.

"That special needs child, who is now 27, not only got me working with children, but she also was instrumental in me deciding to go into family practice," Baack explains. "As she aged out of pediatrics, I realized that many families need someone to follow them throughout their lifespan."

In 2015, Baack added a Family Nurse Practitioner post graduate certificate to her list of educational achievements—which already included a bachelor's, master's and PhD. Today, in addition to her role at South University, Baack works as a family nurse practitioner in Medicare management and risk assessment.

Having cared for patients at all stages of life, Baack always brings course material to life by connecting what’s she teaching in class to real situations from her past. By drawing on her own personal experiences, she also teaches students to better empathize with patients.

"I've been a patient, I've been a family member, I've been a parent, and I've been an advocate. I spent a good deal of my daughter’s childhood in and out of hospitals and doctor's appointments. I taught my daughter to advocate for herself, so I know the importance of teaching patients to be their own advocate," she says. "These are all things that I bring to the classroom."

Baack has worked in education since 2006 and joined South University in 2014. Her expectations are high and she challenges her students to learn from each other, to seek out their own answers and solutions, and to commit to being lifelong learners and self-starters. Every week, she asks students to share and discuss their own clinical experiences, from what was most interesting to what prompted the toughest ethical questions.

"I want them to learn from each other as much as they learn from me. Each of them brings something unique to the class," she says, noting the diversity of age and experience among her students. "I can’t give them everything. They have to take responsibility for their own education too, so they need to look for those experiences that they, and their classmates, can learn from."

For Baack, the joy in teaching comes from watching as her students grow and their thinking evolves. "Even when they're working their regular RN jobs, they start asking, 'What do I think is going on with this patient? What can I find in their charts that would confirm what I think their diagnosis is?’ Differential diagnosis starts coming naturally without them thinking about it."

A lot of those rewarding moments occur, she says, after students complete tough classes like Advanced Pathophysiology or Pharmacology. Then, in their practicums, things fall into place, as they realize how well those courses prepared them for making and explaining clinical decisions, including teaching patients what's causing their symptoms and how their medications will help.

While she expects a lot from her students, Baack gives a lot back as well and her students become like family. She hosts pool parties for classes approaching graduation and frequently receives texts from her students; they all have her cell phone number. "They know, no matter what's going on, they can contact me and that I'm there for them," she says.

Her dedication stems from a true pride in her work. "I tell all of my students to find their passion. If they don't love the job they're doing then look for a new one, because the job they love is out there. If you don't love what you're doing, you're not doing yourself or your patients any good," she advises, adding, "I have the best of both worlds because I love to teach and I love to work with patients and I get to do both."

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Why Choose a Career in Medical Assisting

by South University
August 30, 2017
A photo of a woman talking with a healthcare professional, perhaps a medical assistant.

If you're considering pursuing a career in healthcare, medical assisting can allow you to do meaningful work that matters in your community. Medical assistants play an essential role in the day-to-day operations of healthcare facilities and are often among the first and last people a patient sees at their check-ups or doctor's appointments. If you think the healthcare field could be right for you, here are three reasons why medical assisting is a great place to start.

1. Medical assisting is more than just a job. It's an important healthcare career.

Medical assisting is a rewarding healthcare career that can give you the chance to contribute to patient health and care as you support physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. Medical assistants often interact with patients and, with an upbeat attitude and positive demeanor, can help to keep patients feeling at ease and smiling during a physician’s visit that might otherwise be stressful. In fact, when South University recently checked in with our Associate of Science in Medical Assisting 2014 and 2015 graduates from our Montgomery, Savannah, and Columbia campuses, they reported a 100% graduate satisfaction rate.

As a medical assistant, you’ll also be learning a lot about the healthcare field, and, in time, may find opportunities for advancement into roles like medical office or records manager, healthcare administrator, or other related jobs.

2. Medical assisting encompasses many duties, keeping you engaged and on your toes.

As a medical assistant, you may perform a diverse mix of administrative and clinical responsibilities. On the administrative side, you might schedule appointments, greet patients, update electronic health records, and handle billing and insurance. Clinical duties can include recording patient information and history, instructing patients on medications, checking vital signs, preparing blood samples, conducting basic lab tests, and assisting the doctor before and during a patient exam. In some states, medical assistants may also give patients injections or medications as instructed by the physician.

Medical assistants can work in a variety of care facilities, with most having full-time schedules while others have the option to work part-time instead. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost 60% of medical assistants work in physician's offices, with an additional 10% working in offices of other health practitioners. If you work in a physician's or practitioner's office, you’re likely to work a predictable schedule as most clinics and offices open during standard business hours, allowing you to more easily plan and schedule time with family and friends. Other large employers of medical assistants include hospitals and outpatient care centers.

3. Employment of medical assistants is growing faster than average.

According to the BLS, medical assistant employment is expected to increase 23% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the 7% average across all occupations. Medical assistant employment growth follows the general growth of the healthcare industry and the increasing need for support workers at healthcare facilities. By 2024, the BLS projects that 730,200 medical assistants will be employed in the US, compared to the 591,300 medical assistants counted in 2014. Such an increase in demand can provide workers with increased career stability and the knowledge that, no matter where they are in the country, medical assistants will be needed.

How to Prepare for Your Medical Assisting Career

At South University, our medical assisting associate's degree program can prepare you to begin working as a medical assistant in as little as 2 years. Learn more today about South University's medical assisting program available at our Columbia, Montgomery, and Savannah campuses.

See for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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