Nurse Educator Profile – Wendy J. Robb, Ph.D, RN
Associate degree in nursing from Gwynedd Mercy College, 1986
Bachelor’s degree in nursing from Gwynedd Mercy College, 1989
Master’s in nursing from DeSales University, 1991
Doctorate in nursing from Widener University, 2006
One of Wendy Robb’s favorite sayings is, “Sometimes you don’t choose the challenge, sometimes it chooses you. Rise to meet it either way.” Throughout her career, she’s consistently taken that motto to heart and risen to meet multiple academic and professional challenges. She started her nursing career working in the Trauma Intensive Care unit, worked a full-time night shift while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. After earning her master’s degree in nursing, she took on multiple roles at Lehigh Valley Hospital, including Education Nurse Specialist for the hospital, Clinical Nurse Coordinator in clinical trials, and Chronic Disease Coordinator in Care Management. Since 2000, she’s been teaching in the nursing department at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa. After earning her Ph.D., she was promoted to the Director of Graduate Nursing Program and recently accepted the position of Chair of the Nursing Department.
Question: What drew you to nursing?
Robb: “As a child, I was drawn to the helping professions, but not necessarily nursing. I was a first-generation college student without funds to support the cost of higher education. I was attracted to the nursing program at Gwynedd Mercy College because it allowed students to become eligible for licensure after only two years of study. Upon licensure and employment, I would be able to continue the pursuit towards a bachelor’s degree and take advantage of the financial support of my employer through tuition reimbursement. In addition, Gwynedd Mercy was close to my home, and I could commute to the college, reducing the expense. So, I ended up in nursing out of a need for higher education, desire to enter the helping professions, and simple convenience. I can’t say I was ‘called to become a nurse.’ Actually I remember the unique smell of the hospital the first time I entered the doors and walked down the hallway in my white uniform, questioning whether this was the right choice for me. I wasn’t sure I could work in that environment every day. But, that smell was an acquired acuity and I grew to love nursing.”
Question: Why did you continue to pursue advanced degrees in the field? How has that benefited you in your career?
Robb: “I learned very early in nursing that doors open with advanced education. Working side-by-side with highly educated professionals (physicians, pharmacists, therapists) stimulated my desire to want to know as much as they did and perform flawlessly. In addition, I loved being in school. The environment, the scholarly discourse and discussion, the challenge — they are exciting and make me feel alive. I am always looking for a new challenge, and when I feel I have succeeded or mastered my role, I seek additional challenges. This has been the source of some of my motivation to pursue advanced education and roles with increasingly more responsibility.
“With each new degree, new opportunities were made available. I consider myself a risk-taker, so new opportunities generally don’t scare me. I like to accept the challenge. My continuing education has prepared me to meet the challenges, whether I asked for them or not.”
Question: What skills have you developed and needed throughout your career?
Robb: “I have learned and developed the skills of perseverance and sustaining deep motivation. These coupled with a strong work ethic will result in success regardless of the deterrents. Throughout my career, I have learned that is it best to consider all outcomes before making a determination of the best solution. I find more success in holding back and weighing all options as opposed to rushing to the most logical conclusion. I have learned that teams can accomplish much more than individuals, and that collaboration takes work. But the maintenance and facilitation that is contributed to the collaborative effort will yield a higher functioning team than the best individual. Teams take work and must be finessed, but this effort is well worth the dividend.”
Question: What do you enjoy about your work? What challenges, developments or successes keep it exciting to you?
Robb: “I enjoy the challenge of my work on a daily basis. Healthcare is becoming more complex and increasingly difficult. People are living longer with chronic conditions, and science continues to evolve with new treatments and therapies. Nursing practice is also continually evolving based on the best evidence of industry standards. The puzzle that is created by the dynamic nature of providing disease prevention and health promotion to the changing demographics of a mobile society with a volatile economy is multifarious. When I cared for patients in the trauma intensive care unit, I impacted one or two family units each shift. As a nurse educator, I impact hundreds of nursing students each semester who will ultimately provide care to thousands of patients and family units. I feel that I have a greater impact on the face of healthcare through this role, and this is very exciting!
“More and more people enter into the field of nursing for a multitude of reasons: desire to care for others, job security, tradition. It is my responsibility to ensure that students studying nursing understand the honor and privilege involved in providing care to patients at the most vulnerable times of their lives, that they are fully prepared and educated to make critical decisions in order to provide the best care available to clients in need, and to prepare nurses to advance the profession. Nursing is an art and a science. The complex diversity involved in the profession present many challenges and teaching the next generation of nursing leaders to excel in this environment is difficult. The successes are evidentÿwhen witnessing the care provided to patients, care so compassionate and expert that you’d want that nurse to care for your own loved ones if it were needed.”
Question: What advice do you have for people just starting their education or their professional career who are considering going into nursing and want to advance?
Robb: “My advice for those considering a career in nursing would be to expect to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, care deeper than you’ve ever cared, and to enjoy the rewards of a truly wonderful profession. Nursing is difficult, and not the kind of profession that has been historically depicted in the media. It is extremely hard and exceptionally rewarding work.”
“Advanced education is necessary to continue to develop and move the profession of nursing forward. While a two- or three-year education may provide eligibility for licensure, it is not the degree that will advance nursing to the levels that are required and demanded by the complex nature of diverse populations and healthcare of the 21st century. I would share the advice to continue educational pursuits and don’t wait until the novice stage of bedside nursing experience is over. Achieve higher education and advanced degrees right out of school while gaining experience at the bedside.”
“Gone are the days when nurses can afford to wait to return to school for an advanced degree after spending 10-15 years at the bedside. This precludes more educated nurses at the bedside who have the stamina and experience to lead true change in the professional of nursing. Gain advanced education and gain it early in your career.”