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Meet Melissa Smith, Undergraduate Nursing Program Director at the Cleveland Campus

by South University
August 14, 2017 Dr. Smith is an experienced RN, published gastroenterology expert, and dedicated educator teaching undergraduate nursing at South University, Cleveland.

Melissa M. Smith, RN, PhD, brings over 43 years of nursing experience to her role as Undergraduate Nursing Program Director at South University, Cleveland.

Now a full-time educator, Smith is accomplished in the field of nursing and has been published in Gastroenterology Nursing as well as the American Journal of Nursing. Her work on the topic of infection control in endoscopy centers was also included in the 2002 edition of the Manual of Clinical Problems in Gastroenterology.

Throughout her career, Smith has served as both a staff nurse and a nurse administrator. After beginning her career working in a surgical intensive care unit, Smith transferred to the outpatient endoscopy department. From there, Dr. Smith moved into private practice, helping to establish one of the first Medicare certified endoscopy centers in Ohio.

During her years managing and working at the endoscopy center, Smith returned to school to earn her bachelor’s in nursing, and was soon drawn to the idea of her becoming an educator. In 2001, Smith took a role as a Didactic/Clinical Instructor. Meanwhile, she continued pursuing her own education, earning a MSN degree in 2002 and post master’s nursing education certificate in 2005.

By 2006, Smith was working as a full-time faculty member and, after earning her PhD in Nursing in 2009, she soon worked her way up to Assistant Director and the Director of the nursing programs at the school where she was teaching. In 2012, she brought her wealth of knowledge and skills to the team and students at South University, Cleveland.

Reflecting on her own educational journey, Smith recalls faculty members who were both mentors and inspirations for her own approach to teaching, but the road wasn't all easy. "Earning my doctoral degree was a challenge, but it was an experience that helped me to grow and to think differently," she reflects. "It opened up many doors, and I don't think I would be here had I not taken that journey."

As an instructor, she values not only guiding her students in learning fundamental nursing skills and knowledge but also encouraging and teaching them to search out more knowledge. Often when students give her an answer with hesitancy in their voice, she’ll respond, 'Are you asking me or are you telling me?'

She explains, "I want them to know how to utilize their resources, rather than to rely on someone else knowing a piece of information. You don't have to have all the answers, but you do have to know where to get your answers."

In pushing them to seek out answers and sources, Dr. Smith prepares her students not just for the immediate next step in their career, but ultimately for a lifelong process of learning. For her graduates, she advises, "You should trust what you've learned, but also recognize that you still have a lot to learn, and that's okay. That's how it should be."

The idea of lifelong learning and growth is something Smith herself is personally familiar with; she’d been working as a nurse for 25 years before she earned her bachelor's degree. "As I encounter the more seasoned nurses, I encourage them not to be afraid to step out of that comfort zone," she says. "Someone will tell me, 'Oh, I'm too old to go back to school.' No, you're not. I don't believe that. We're never too old. We should never stop trying to grow and build ourselves professionally or personally."

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