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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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Meet a Key Member of the Orlando Learning Site’s Nursing Faculty and Leadership

by South University
August 18, 2017

"The educational journey is exciting but extremely difficult. It has many valleys, peaks, tears, frustrations and celebrations," says South University, Orlando Learning Site, Assistant Dean & Associate Professor for Graduate Nursing, William Warrington. "In the end, one can only achieve greatness when you are pushed to the limit of your potential; I believe in pushing hard. I want every student to succeed and be the very best they can be."

An important part of the leadership for the South University, Orlando Learning Site, Dr. William Warrington, PhD, ARNP, FNP-C, CCRP, is an accomplished nurse practitioner and educator who has devoted over 25 years to the nursing field. Recently, he earned the honor of being named one of the Top 100 Nurse Educators and Researchers in the State of Florida by the Florida Nurses Association.

Becoming a Leader in the Field of Nursing

Like many nurses, Warrington was attracted to the profession after himself witnessing the care and compassion of nurses. After watching the nursing staff care for his father after an open heart operation, Warrington—who had previously served in the US Army as a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Weapons Specialist—was inspired to look into nursing school.

"I found out that the curriculum would be challenging and stimulating. I was not disappointed," recalls Warrington, who earned his ASN in 1990 and his BSN shortly thereafter in 1993.

From there, Warrington spent over two decades working in intensive care units and cardiac catheterizations labs. He earned an MSN in Nursing Administration and Adult Health in 2002 and a PhD in Nursing Science / Physiology in 2008—degrees that equipped him to take on leadership responsibilities such as supervising employees and mentoring new team members and students.

For five years, Warrington was also a Nurse Scientist with the Orlando Health Center for Nursing Research, where he served as principal investigator on four studies, was co-investigator on nine studies, and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, one of which was published in the Journal of the Association for Vascular Access. Here, in addition to conducting and supporting research, Warrington helped to inform other nurses of recent research, guiding them in evidence-based practice initiatives.

Over the years, Warrington has also given 21 poster and podium presentations at various conferences, seminars, and other meetings, as well as served on and chaired many committees and advisory boards. In 2014, Warrington earned another MSN with a specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner, and he has been working as an ARNP ever since.

"Working in nursing has provided me with a diverse career. Being a registered nurse was rewarding, but, after going on several medical missions, I wanted to seize the opportunity to really make a difference in the daily lives of people by being able to assess, diagnose, and treat our underserved population," he reflects. "To accomplish this, I had to step up my game and increase my knowledge, skills, and responsibility by becoming a certified family nurse practitioner."

Sharing Expertise and Giving Back

Beyond all his professional accomplishments, Warrington has also been active in education on and off since 1992, both in hospitals and numerous educational institutions.

"For me, teaching is an extension of care. I like to give people information so that they can make informed decision about their life and healthcare. This naturally evolved into the academic arena," he says, adding. "I wanted to give back to the nursing profession and share the knowledge that I had accumulated over the years."

Warrington joined South University in 2015 and, in addition to teaching, spends much of his time providing leadership to department chairs, program directors, and faculty. On top of his work in academia, Warrington still practices at a clinic one day per week and volunteers as a Nurse Practitioner for Shepherd's Hope Inc, an organization that provides free care to low-income families in need.

In his classroom, Warrington draws heavily on what he’s learned over the years as a nurse. "Experience is everything! I believe that my students benefit from my academic and professional practice successes as well as failures," he asserts, explaining that in addition to telling students what works, he warns them of common pitfalls, recommending strategies for avoiding such mistakes entirely.

For his students and other nurses, his advice is straightforward but valuable. In fact, it’s what has helped him to achieve so much. "Work hard, read everything, challenge yourself, and take pride in what you do."

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

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

by South University
August 14, 2017

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."

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

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In-Demand: More Nurse Educators Still Needed!

by South University
August 7, 2017

Nurse Educator

As the need for nurses has grown over the years, so has the need for nurse educators. Yet this need has not been met, and today nurse educator shortages at facilities across the U.S. are limiting student enrollment numbers. According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) report, nursing schools rejected over According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) report, nursing schools rejected over 64,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate programs in 2016 due an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.

Thus, for those considering a career in the field of nurse education, the time is right for you to build your knowledge and skills and pursue a career where you are needed!

Graduate Degrees Required for Open Positions

If you are interested in a career as a nurse educator, a graduate degree is highly recommended and valued by employers.

Historically, it has been hard for nursing schools to find nurse educators possessing master’s or doctoral degrees. In 2016, 8% of full-time nurse educator positions were unfilled, according to an AACN survey of nursing programs across the country. These open nurse educator positions leave many opportunities for individuals with the right passion, skills, and educational experiences.

More Nurse Educators Retiring in Coming Years

For institutions not currently feeling the effects of the country's nurse educator shortages, the upcoming retirement of many nurse educators may lead to even more open positions. According to AACN's report on 2015-2016 Salaries of Instructional and Administrative Nursing Faculty, the average ages of doctorally-prepared nurse faculty holding the ranks of professor, associate professor, and assistant professor were 62.2, 57.6, and 51.1 years, respectively. This means that many nurse educators will be retiring and leaving vacancies in the coming years. Experts predict that even the country’s best-rated nursing schools will need to recruit aggressively to attract the right applicants for their vacancies.

To minimize the impact of the nurse educator shortage, the American Nurses Association is working to encourage registered nurses to study for master’s and doctoral degree programs to provide them with an opportunity to move into educator positions. If you’re interested in this career, get started by learning about the graduate programs in the area of Nursing offered by South University at

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Author's Note: This article was originally published December 2014 and has been updated to reflect current research statistics and insights.

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The Rising Value of a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

by South University
August 7, 2017

Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that only slightly more than half of all Registered Nurses (RNs) have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Yet, major professional organizations, including the National Academy of Medicine, are pushing for that number to reach 80% within the next four years.

Why Organizations Want RNs with a BSN

While 80% of RNs with a BSN is an ambitious goal, many organizations want to make it a reality. Why? They hope to increase the standard of care for their patients, and a growing body of research demonstrates improved clinical outcomes for nurses with higher education. These outcomes range from lower mortality rates to more accurate diagnoses.

Some hospitals may be further driven by a desire for the coveted Magnet Hospital designation, which requires that hospitals have a plan to ensure 80% of their RNs hold a BSN by 2020. The awarding committee also evaluates the current education of the nursing staff and expects all nurse managers to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

How a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Could Help You

While associate’s and diploma nursing programs focus primarily on the basics of clinical care, BSN programs offer a broader curriculum useful in diverse settings and cases. BSN programs can teach you communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills as well as prepare you to deliver more advanced patient care.

Employers recognize and value that difference, with the numbers clearly showing the value of a BSN to RNs on the job hunt. In 2016, the AACN found that nearly 98% of surveyed organizations strongly preferred hiring nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing, while over 54% only hired RNs with a BSN. The US Army, Navy and Air Force, for example, require every active duty practicing RN to hold a BSN.

Having a bachelor's degree in nursing is also commonly a must-have for moving beyond basic clinical positions into administration, research, teaching, or other specialized nursing fields. This holds true in the Veteran's Administration (VA)—the single largest US employer for RNs—where nurses cannot be promoted out of entry-level positions without a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Earning a BSN can also lead to a jump in your salary. In 2017, reported that RNs with a BSN earned a median salary of $69,000, nearly $8,000 more than those without the degree. Beyond that, a bachelor’s degree in nursing can be a stepping stone to a master’s degree in nursing, which is required for advanced practice RNs.

Solutions for Working Nurses: RN to BSN Programs and Online Nursing Degrees

Without your RN status, earning a bachelor's degree in nursing would take, on average, four years. Luckily, RN to BSN programs can save RNs like you time and money. If you meet RN to BSN requirements, you could earn your BSN in under two years.

What's more, select schools allow you to earn nursing degrees online—giving you greater flexibility and control over your schedule. Your employer may even offer tuition reimbursement support for RN to BSN programs. Either way, investing in your education now could lead to more job and promotion opportunities and a higher salary in the future.

Author's Note: This article was originally published September 2016 and has been updated to reflect current research statistics and insights.

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