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The Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence—a national organization addressing challenges in nursing education, particularly faculty shortages—has announced a new class of graduate students for its Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program.
Among the fall 2012 scholarship recipients is University of Iowa College of Nursing doctoral student Emily Higdon.
“This award couldn't have come at a better time,” says Higdon, who didn’t realize she’d even been nominated. “It truly is an honor and a blessing to be a Jonas scholar. I couldn't be happier.”
Iowa Now caught up with Higdon to talk about when she developed an interest in nursing, her experience at the UI, and where her career path might lead.
When—and why—did you decide you wanted to become a nurse?
I didn't know I wanted to be a nurse right away after high school. It wasn't until after I got married and had kids. I was working in a bank—I decided I needed a new direction. I've always been a person who has felt a calling to help people, so nursing seemed like a good fit.
Why did you choose the University of Iowa?
The University of Iowa has been a part of my life from the very beginning. I was born and raised in Iowa City, learning to love all things Hawkeyes. It was just my luck that I grew up in the shadow of one of the greatest schools of nursing in the country. I had no idea until I looked into nursing schools what a wonderful resource I had virtually in my backyard. It was like it was meant to be.
I couldn't be happier here. My cohort of fellow students is very close. We encourage and challenge each other. The faculty have been stellar. They believe in me so wholeheartedly that I can't help but believe in myself. I am so blessed to have such a powerhouse of top-tier nursing faculty in my corner.
What made you want to further your education and go for your Ph.D.?
It's not hard to fall in love with your job when you work in labor and delivery. So I found myself asking a lot of questions and wanting to change things that didn't make sense…or wanting to figure out why things weren't changing that seemed obvious to me. I felt like all pregnant women, their families, and their unborn children could be better cared for. I just had this overwhelming sense that I needed to do something about it.
I also have to admit that I really like school and being in an academic setting. The Ph.D. option was perfect. I could stay in academia and do research that would change the way we care for the pregnant women of this country and around the world. That thought inspired me to give the program a shot.
How did you become interested in researching interventions in labor and delivery?
I realized toward the end of my undergraduate education that I really loved labor and delivery nursing. I think that when you truly love something you want to make it better. It was my experiences at work in labor and delivery that inspired me to want to change some things or make other things better.
How do you foresee using your research throughout your career?
This might sound lofty and grandiose but I want to change the way we help women give birth all over the world. I hope to complete research that helps finally move the practice forward so that we can decrease the cesarean section rate across the country, especially in women with low-risk pregnancies or deliveries. I don't think that women in the United States have been taught about the real risks and benefits of the different interventions and procedures involved with childbirth. I'd like my research to also address this so that women can truly make informed decisions about their own care.
What are some of your other professional interests and goals?
Well, my first goal is to graduate. That would be wonderful! Shortly thereafter I'd like to be on faculty at a research-intensive nursing college where I can conduct groundbreaking research and help guide the next generation of nurses into this quickly expanding and changing profession. Oh, and I'd also like to be the world's top researcher in birth care.
Do you see yourself getting involved in other facets of the nursing profession?
I'd definitely love to be a part of interdisciplinary teams that help to draw up standards of practice for pregnant and postpartum women. I would also love to be part of the creation of a family birth care center.
What does the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholarship mean to you (professionally as well as personally)?
Wow! That's still the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the award. Sometimes I still have a hard time believing it's real. The Jonas Center's dedication to building the future of nursing is incomparable. The prestige associated with this award is humbling. To be in a class with the up-and-coming nurse leaders of the country is amazing and exciting. I cannot wait to meet everyone at the next Scholars Meeting. To just have been nominated for the award is more than I could have asked for.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I'd better be graduated! All joking aside, five years from now, I hope to be establishing a career in a tenure-track position as faculty at a college of nursing, teaching students about women's health, pregnancy care, and nursing as a profession. Hopefully five years from now I've received some funding and am in the middle of some groundbreaking research.
What words of advice would you give to incoming students?
Give it your all. Get to know the faculty in your department; they are the best resources you'll ever have. Learn to multi-task. Make time to have some fun and put down the books. Buy an industrial-sized washing machine. The availability of laundry days diminishes as you get farther into the program!