The month of May recognizes two important work forces which are vital to our community: teachers and nurses. Nurses and teachers help shape our communities and help us to thrive. During these special weeks, we honor their dedication, compassion and hard work.
Up & Coming Weekly had the chance to sit down and talk with Robin Kivett, an Associate Degree Nursing Instructor at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
Kivett became a registered nurse and graduated FTCC in 1981. She previously worked at Cape Fear Valley and was the Palliative Care Coordinator. She then transitioned to FTCC and became a teacher in 2019, which was a full-circle moment for her.
During her time as an instructor at FTCC, she helped oversee the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine being administered at the COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic held at FTCC on April 1, 2021. She also received a NISOD Excellence Award for her outstanding work at FTCC.
UCW: What inspired you to become a nurse?
Kivett: As a young girl, I always played teacher, and I always envisioned that I would be in education. At a high school career fair over at 71st, we had many vendors who had come from different colleges, and as we were walking by one of the schools of nursing, a girlfriend of mine said, ‘You know what? You would make a great nurse.’ I had never considered nursing. There's no one medical in my family.
But at the same time, later that year, I was voted the most compassionate. Not most likely to succeed and not anything else but most compassionate. And I really think for that it was sort of a light bulb moment for me that, maybe nursing is what I was meant to do. It's really ironic to me that I now have come full circle, and I've been able to blend nursing and teaching, and I'm doing both.
UCW: Why did you decide to switch careers to teaching?
Kivett: I always knew that there was a tug at my heart to come back to teaching. And so I think even as a nurse, I always recognized that I would eventually teach nursing. At the time, the position I had was eliminated. And so that pretty much was the impetus for me. That job change was very difficult because I loved that position. And I remember even sitting in the parking lot one day really kind of tearful about the fact that that position had ended and having a prayer moment and just really angry, ‘God, why is this happening?’ And I didn't really have that recognition, didn't really have that answer.
And then, I was sitting in my office after delivering an amazing class that day, and it was almost like this little tap on my shoulder that said, ‘Robin, this is why. Instead of teaching one family at a time, now you've taught 40 students, and each one of them can now go teach one family at a time.’ And I thought, okay, now I get it. This is where I'm supposed to be.
UCW: Can you share some challenges you have faced as a nurse and how you overcame them?
Kivett: The challenging thing for me is to look at health care across our nation right now. As nurses who feel that sense of allegiance with our patients, sometimes we have conflict. We have moral distress between what we're having to do and what is dictated by insurance and systems and that sort of thing. Whenever we feel like that maybe it is not the most patient-centered care. And I think that's probably one of the biggest challenges. We may not feel that it's safe, that we have to provide care for X number of patients, but we are what we are. That's all we've got, and we have to do the best that we can.
UCW: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a nurse and a teacher?
Kivett: Even though I was in a patient care setting previously, I was always that teacher to them and for them, for patients and their families, to finally have that aha moment of that understanding, those light bulb moments was just so rewarding because then they could make informed decisions and move forward with their care. So that was still teaching.
But in coming to the actual academic side of nursing, it is now I get to see those aha moments for students. I often find that students don't realize that they're learning what they think they're learning, but later they're like, ‘Oh my God, I do know that. Oh wow, I can do that. Or look at how I've grown.’ When you think about a brand new person who comes into nursing, and then two years later, they're actually a practicing nurse. It's just amazing. And that's the most rewarding thing for me is nudging them to the next class so that they can then graduate and do the work that they want to do.
UCW: How do you balance life and work with your job?
Kivett: I actually have to think that at this moment in time in the health care system, I don't know that we do. I think we do the best that we can. And even in academics, there's always something else to be done.
And I think, as a bedside nurse, I'm not sure that we do. I think that we do the best that we can,
But at the same time, there is that constant tug between taking care of your patients and taking care of your family, regardless of what your family looks like. If that's just a partner or whatever, you know, or your kids, I think it's just very difficult. One of the big emphasis this day and time is on nursing self-care.
The American Nursing Association has a big push on Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation, and I belong to that and then I encourage my students to be involved in that.
We're in desperate times in nursing and I think we really have to emphasize setting some boundaries. But it's very difficult not to go in for that extra shift or not to do that when you know that your coworkers are struggling to care for as many patients as they may be having to care for.
UCW: What is one thing that you want people to know about your career?
Kivett: I think that nursing is the best career. I had this conversation with a student this morning. Once they become licensed, once they pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination), being a nurse opens doors, literally.
I mean, I know that's kind of a stock sentence, but it really, it truly does because if I don't want to work in a hospital setting, I can work in an outpatient setting or a school setting or work in the prison system. If I enjoy working with older people, I can work with the elderly in a nursing home. If I don't care for that, I can work with pediatrics and children.
Nursing probably offers the most varied opportunities of any career path that I can imagine.