As Graduate Nursing Program Director at South University, Montgomery, Jennifer Wilson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, regularly draws on her 20 years of nursing experience when working with students.
Wilson spent much of her early career in the cardiac unit focused on critical care nursing. "That's one of the classes that I still love to teach in the undergraduate program," she says.
After a decade in nursing, Wilson earned her MSN in 2007 and took on a Clinical Nurse Educator role in addition to her normal duties as the RN Team Leader at the medical center where she worked. In reality, however, she’d already been mentoring nurses for a while.
"In critical care, I was always the nurse that new nurses were paired with to train them. I never imagined myself as a teacher, but I did enjoy that role. Eventually, I began considering going into a more formal line of education," she says. "That was really solidified after I started working as a nurse practitioner and was doing a lot of teaching with my patients. Once you realize the impact you can make by educating people, your work takes on a whole new life."
As a Family Nurse Practitioner, Wilson has worked for a range of healthcare organizations and clinics, including a family practice clinic at Maxwell Airforce Base. During her time at the base, she developed and implemented a hydration plan for ROTC field training and received several letters of commendation from Colonels in the USAF as well as multiple military coins of achievement and service. She has also served as an independent consultant for Blue Cross Blue Shield doing in-home assessments.
Wilson began teaching in academia in 2011 and, by 2012, she had completed her DNP from Troy State University. A year later, in 2013, she started teaching nursing at South University.
Today, in addition to her role at South University, Wilson practices around 10 hours per week in a clinic. She is particularly passionate about helping patients become active participants in their health, something she says she can really dive into with her diabetic and pre-diabetic patients.
"By guiding patients to start making lifestyle changes earlier, we can go beyond controlling diabetes to actually helping someone who is pre-diabetic prevent diabetes from ever developing," she explains. "It can be hard to get them to embrace that diagnosis, but once they realize that they can do something about it and that the weight is on their shoulders, I give them the tools that they need to change. It's incredible to see that turn around."
When it comes to teaching, Wilson is committed to doing everything she can to help each student master the skills and knowledge needed for providing patient care, including teaching to fit their varying learning styles. When someone struggles to understand a concept, her job, she says, is to find another way to explain it, occasionally teaming up with other faculty to introduce other viewpoints and instructional styles.
"There's tough love involved, but you also have to be sensitive to the different needs of different students. It's something I really care about. I'm educating people who are going to be my colleagues and my peers and the representation of my profession," says Wilson, who was once under the care of two of her former South University nursing students. "That was a very rewarding moment. To see that the knowledge was there, the bedside manner was there, and also the caring was there. That does nothing but say good things about the quality of our program and our graduates."
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