The Importance of Mentorship in Nursing Education - Beth Hendricks, Assistant Professor at New Mexico State University School of Nursing





Michael Carrese: Hi everybody, I'm Michael Carrese. In this special episode, we'll be talking to one of the winners of the 2022 Osmosis Raise the Line Faculty Awards, who was chosen from over 1,000 nominations we received from 377 institutions around the world, with students and colleagues submitting videos and testimonials telling us how they embody the six Osmosis core values. Today, I'm happy to be joined by Professor Elizabeth Hendricks, overall winner for the Nursing - Nurse Practitioner, BSN category. Beth, it's great to have you on the show. Congratulations.


Beth Hendricks: Thank you so much. I am so excited to be here. 


Michael Carrese: So, instead of me reading your resume, why don't we find out in your own words what you're doing there at New Mexico State University and a little bit on the university and the health education programs, too. 


Beth Hendricks: Absolutely. I am an Ohio transplant, which I feel happens a lot in Southern New Mexico. Where I live and where New Mexico State University is, is surrounded by an hour of desert, and so since it's surrounded by an hour of desert, there's all these opportunities for nurse educators because that access to resources is a lot different than where I'm from in Northeast Ohio. A couple of years ago, I had a friend that moved to New Mexico. They finished their NP program and said, “You know what? I think you would love it here. One, you love tacos, two, you hate snow, three, you should come out here.” So I did, and I found right away that a master's prepared nurse educator was of more value in Southern New Mexico than it would be in a place like in Ohio where you could throw a dime and it would bounce off twelve people with their MSN degree. 


So, I got here about four or five years ago and started working the bedside, finished my master's in nursing education quickly, ended up working in a local hospital for an RN residency, made a lot of connections through RN residency with research and just developing programs for new grads, and then eventually made my way to New Mexico State University, NMSU for short. So, a great place to be. 


Michael Carrese: Sounds like it. When did you decide to go down the educational path? What drew you to that? 


Beth Hendricks: You know what, I think some of us, when we start nursing, immediately you have a student that is very confident and feels very capable, and then you have that other student, and I think I was the other student. I definitely had a lot of imposter syndrome.  I'm sure most people listening know what that is, but if you don't, you go to a class, you're feeling good, you're confident, and then maybe the instructor uses a word that you don't understand or some terminology -- or they cover some topics that you can’t apply -- and immediately it's almost like you have that old Looney Tunes cartoon, right? The devil on one shoulder, the angel on the other, “you can do this, no, you can't.” I suffered from that pretty bad. I think what got me into education was how long it took me personally to grow my nursing backbone as a student. So, I definitely represent the other student, and I think representation is super important in undergraduate nursing. 


Michael Carrese: And you felt somehow that you would be able to help that type of student as an instructor? 


Beth Hendricks: I did. I ended up meeting a nurse educator. I was working at Altman Hospital in Canton, Ohio, which is just south of the Cleveland Clinic, and I had transferred to the cardiology CCU unit, and there was this amazing educator that kind of made me step back and go, why are you doing this? Why do you love it so much? Who do you want to be? How do you want your patient's outcomes to be? You're really bright, and what is making you hold back? 


That nurse educator really pushed me, and after experiencing that, I kind of wanted to be her. We can never be our mentors. We can never be our mentors. We can't fill their shoes, but we can wear our own shoes and walk beside them. So I definitely wanted to be like her.


Michael Carrese: That's great. Is there anybody else who kind of inspired you to think about education? 


Beth Hendricks: Definitely my father, Ken Hendricks. He told me, you know what, you're super bright, and before you make any decision in life as an adult, I definitely want you to think about your education. Because coming from Northeast Ohio -- it's a Rust Belt area -- so you're talking about a lot of wonderful blue-collar folks, but maybe they don't have a college education. And so he really pushed me to consider college rather than not, since I was the first person in my family to go to college. So, my dad was a big inspiration, too. 


Michael Carrese: That's great. So, you mentioned before being involved with an RN residency program. For folks who maybe are less familiar with that stage of nursing education, talk about that a little bit and what you think you brought to that. 


Beth Hendricks: Sure thing. When I talk about nursing residency, it seems like sometimes a foreign subject. When you think about a resident doctor, some people that are just entering the healthcare field don't know that a resident doctor has their license, right? If a doctor finishes school and becomes a resident physician, they have their license, but they're learning how to practice. I feel like physicians have a lot of support when it comes to learning how to practice, and mentorship where RNs...that's just now becoming a practice that we're seeing with the RN degree, or really for nursing in general. 


So, with RN residency, these are new grad nurses who have their license, but they're coming into a program and being taught how to take care of patients and have good outcomes and get exposed to mentorship. You're getting support on top of what you learned in nursing school, especially because every nursing school is so different. Is it a practice-based program? Is it concept-based? Is it competency-based? So, it's bringing all those students together and giving them some cohesive education just to kind of put that frosting on the cake. Nursing school is a cake, residency is the frosting, that finishing of the product, but it's also connecting those new grads to mentors. 


Those interdisciplinary mentorships can last for a year. It's very easy to have maybe like a laser focus of what you want to do as a new grad, but you forget, “Oh, yeah, I have to work with physical therapy, I have to work with occupational therapy, speech therapy, respiratory therapy, case management. I have all these departments, these interdisciplinary team members that I need to connect with, too.”


So, it's really, again, just putting the frosting on the cake if the cake was passing your NCLEX. It usually lasts about a year; it just depends on the program. 


Michael Carrese: Speaking of the NCLEX, that's something else you've done. You've been a tutor and helped a lot of folks prepare for that exam. For any people facing that, or actually other big tests -- and there's lots of moments like that in medical education -- what's some of your go-to advice? What's your approach to test-taking? 


Beth Hendricks: The first approach as a coach is to know that a student is not a grade. Of course we want you to be successful. Of course we want A's. But especially for students that come to programs, students that listen to podcasts...those are usually like very high producing and very motivated students, and so for students coming to nursing school that get stuck in that, “I am what my grade is,” it can be really tough. 


Nursing school and medical school are completely different kinds of tests. It's the first time you enter a program and go, “Oh my gosh, all four answers are right. How can all four answers be right? This is ridiculous.” So, my first approach would be you are not a grade and you are not a number. The most successful nurses that I have seen that have graduated are persistent. They're persistent students. They're persistent and they're passionate and they keep going. I myself was a B student. I was never an A student. I was too busy balancing every other variable that a lot of nursing students or medical students have to deal with. Are we family members? Are we spouses? Are we working? Do we have our own personal challenges that we're dealing with? Of course we are as humans. So, being able to recognize you're not a number is first. 


Number two is truly learning to think like a nurse. I think when it comes to traditional programs, it's knowledge-based. So, a knowledge-based question is gonna be, “What are symptoms of pneumonia: a cough, shortness of breath? Versus when you get into nursing school and medical school you’re asked what is the pathology? What is the problem? What's broken in that initial anatomy or pathology? What symptoms are we expecting? The testing is what? How do we analyze this information and how do we apply it, intervene and evaluate outcomes? That really trips students up. So, it's really learning that clinical judgment. 


Michael Carrese: Yeah, and kind of assuming an identity for the first time. 


Beth Hendricks: Absolutely. 


Michael Carrese: As a professional, as a nurse, as a clinician. 


Beth Hendricks: That's the toughest part. 


Michael Carrese: Right, big step. So in order to win the award, you received a lot of nominations and testimonials from students and colleagues. I'm going to embarrass you and read some of that right now. 


“I have had the pleasure of having Professor Elizabeth Hendricks for over half of my nursing school journey to become an RN BSN. She is without a doubt the best professor I've ever had and that says a lot as this is my third degree. She is a compassionate, dedicated professional. She's empathetic and absolutely driven to help her students succeed. I needed some more time and guidance with some of the harder critical care concepts -- basically anything cardiac -- and Professor Hendricks took the time and provided me with that time and additional resources to help me understand in a way that made sense to me.” 


What's your reaction to that?


Beth Hendricks: It makes me feel like I should have been in academia a long time ago. I don't know about any of you or anybody listening, but if you've ever found what you love, there's always a reason and a season for how we get here. But I wish I would have been an educator eons ago. I didn't get into academia until after about fourteen years at the bedside, and whenever I see a student make those connections and you see that light bulb go off over their head, it me feel....gosh, like successful. Not only for me, but for them, right? 


I'm forty-four. These folks are gonna take care of me. I'm surrounded by an hour of desert, so I need these nursing students to understand, but also I need them to find me more than an instructor. It is my deepest wish for all of my students to find me as a mentor and a coach. Many people can be an instructor, but it takes some delivery of yourself and some transparency and teamwork and collaboration and mentorship to really have that kind of relationship with your students. That's a lot of work and it can be very exhausting, but at the end of the day, I have students that leave feedback like this and it's so rewarding for me, but not only for me...for them, for their patients and for our community, which is most important. 


So, I'm super pleased to hear students give me feedback like this. I also accept the feedback that maybe I don't like so much, right? Because all educators get that feedback too. All those things are super important. What we do well and where we need to grow. It's equally important. 


Michael Carrese: That's well put. So, as you probably know, Osmosis has six core values: Start With The Heart, Spread Joy, Have Each Other's Backs, Imagine More, Open Your Arms And Reach Further. Is there one of those that you are particularly drawn to or think describes you best? 


Beth Hendricks: Out of the Osmosis six values, it would have to be having your students’ back. One of the most important values as a professor is to meet my students with a lot of challenge, but also support. When I challenge my students and really throw down some outcomes that I need them to have, they know that they can speak with me. They have the safe space to make a mistake. They can ask me any question, which is so important because we've all had professors who maybe teach us with shame. “You should have known that. Why didn't you know that? You've learned that already. We've covered that.” It could be true, but it's not fruitful for the student. Those words aren't fruitful. So, I like to challenge them, give them support and also not tell them everything they do is amazing. Having their back and meeting them with challenge is I feel the best method for connecting with students.


Michael Carrese: Makes sense. So, as a teaching company, we love to fill knowledge gaps and we love to get some direction from our guests about a topic that they really care about where they think more people should know about it, or people believe a myth about it...things along those lines. Is there something that comes to mind? 


Beth Hendricks: What would come to mind for me the most -- because I'm so transparent with my students -- is being aware of your learning style. I know that learning style has been debunked a little bit in research because we know that most nursing students or medical students are multi-modal learners. But even if we are, there's still our primary learning styles. 


One of the things that my students know is I am openly ADHD, and because of that, I have a hard time reading. I start at the top left of my page and I end up on the bottom right and go, “How the heck did I get here?” So, I know that I need supplemental resources. If you are an instructor, I highly encourage you to consider posting podcast episodes or posting videos like Osmosis. I use Osmosis with my class because it's going to bridge between passive learning and actually active learning. 


So, with passive learning, the student says, I don't get it. I read my book. I watched the lecture. I even watched a video or two. When you add those extra supplemental resources on top of it -- teach them how to take notes, teach them how to break down concepts, how to listen, how to find a quiet space where they can listen, what is their learning style, can they consolidate three pages of notes into one note -- all of those tricks, including spaced repetition. I love your video on spaced repetition. I use it all the time in my classroom. When you teach students those tricks and you cater to their learning style, I guarantee your classroom will have better outcomes. 


Michael Carrese: Yeah. Folks need to learn how to learn, and it's not something that really is incorporated into K-12 curriculums or even college curriculums.


Beth Hendricks: I didn't learn until my second degree, my associate degree of nursing. When I got my ADN back in 2006, I had no idea how to learn. It was really when I attempted my bachelor's degree in 2012 that I had a mentor that finally taught me how to learn. Once I did, gosh, I went from an average student to a diploma with honors. So, it made such a difference. 


Michael Carrese: You're with students all the time, and as you know, this is a particularly difficult moment in healthcare. We're still dealing with COVID and COVID caused so much upheaval over the last couple of years. So, what advice do you give them about stepping into healthcare now and actually even thinking a little bit more long-term about their career? 


Beth Hendricks: That's a great question. The first thing I'm going to do is back up and talk about how to get through this time as a student. I am currently a nurse practitioner student. I have eleven weeks to go for my adult geriatric acute NP courses. During the pandemic, every single hospital had a COVID command center where they got all the subject matter experts together to solve problems for COVID for that community and that facility. During that time -- which I'll never regret -- I put so much time into bettering outcomes for a facility that my grades dropped. 


As somebody who's always had amazing grades in school, starting at my bachelor's, it was a big blow because I could not find balance. So, as a student, I want to encourage you to find balance. Yes, I'm proud of everything I did with COVID. Oh my gosh, I can't believe I was in academic learning and could have jeopardized my whole NP education! So, finding resiliency and productivity...that balance is so important. 


Two, when you graduate and you get on the job, be aware that you're going to meet some tired and exhausted healthcare professionals and you're probably not meeting them at their best right now. There's a lot of burnout professionals. They are there to help people and they love their careers, but they're COVID kids, right? They're burnt from the pandemic. So be positive. Keep being a team member and know that what you put into your relationship with some of these burned-out coworkers is what you're going to get back. So, be true to yourself, be positive, be a team member and keep putting that positive energy into your workforce because you will get it in return.


Michael Carrese: Talk a little bit about the NP degree. Why did you decide to go for that and what are you hoping to accomplish with it? 


Beth Hendricks: I wanted to go to NP school for years. As a nurse, I told myself, “I'm not smart enough to be a nurse practitioner, so I'll go into education instead.” Which is hilarious. That is not the right answer. Education kind of gave me my confidence, especially because I have so much background in cardiology -- I worked for a top fifty in the US cardiology hospital in Ohio. I knew that there are a lot of NPs out there, but there are not a lot of nurse practitioners that have an education background. So, I knew I could bring a lot to my patients, especially when it comes to cardiac, because you need so much patient education and being able to connect with your patients to get them to be compliant, to understand their treatments, to understand that it's a team effort for their outcomes. And I just love the heart. My students are sick of me talking about perfusion. 


Michael Carrese: Well, that's all right. There's nothing wrong with getting your point across.  


Beth Hendricks: That's right. 


Michael Carrese: So, as we wrap up here, are there any folks who you want to thank? Peers, students, mentors? 


Beth Hendricks: I would like to first thank my students because student feedback is so important. When I was a student, I would feel like some of my friends would be “keyboard warriors.” They would leave all this feedback at the end of the semester for what their professor could do better. But I really try to connect with my students and create that transparency and collaboration. “Tell me what you need from me now.” I have that relationship with so many of my students and they tell me what's going well and what could go better and my students have truly made me the educator that I am now. 


As far as mentors, Rhonda Fleischman in Canton, Ohio was my very first CCU clinical educator that made me want to get into academia. Todd Stuve is my former director here in Las Cruces when I ran the RN residency program and going from an RN to an educator. He was like, “Do you even know what Excel is?” And I'm like, “Teach me everything that I need to know.” And definitely my current director, Alexa Doig, who has taught me that outcomes are as equally as important as emotional intelligence. And lastly to my wife, Beth Cole, who is my inspiration to be a better person every day. 


Michael Carrese: That's beautiful. Well, listen, we'll have to leave it there, but I want to thank you so much for taking time to talk to us and congratulate you again on receiving the Raise the Line Faculty Award. We just want to wish you the best in the coming year and thank you for all you do for the next generation of healthcare professionals. 


Beth Hendricks: Thank you so much for having me and thank you for everything that you do for students with all learning styles. I really appreciate you. 


Michael Carrese: That's great. I'm Michael Carrese. I want to thank you for checking out this special episode of Raise the Line. If you'd like to learn about other faculty award winners from 2022, please check out osmosis.org/faculty-awards. And as always, remember to do your part to raise the line and strengthen the healthcare system. We're all in this together.