August 22, 2014  

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Catching Up with Dr. Katherine Nugent

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Dr. Katherine Nugent serves as director of the School of Nursing at The University of Southern Mississippi. She has held that position for the past six years.

Nugent, a New Orleans native, recently took a few moments to reflect on her tenure as director of the School of Nursing and examine the program’s outlook for the future.

Q: How far back does your nursing career extend?

A:I have been a nurse since 1970 when I graduated from Texas Woman’s University in the Houston Medical Center. I was a pediatric nurse and later worked as a clinical specialist in pediatrics. In 1985 I began teaching as a faculty member in nursing programs and in 1987 I began my career in administrative positions within schools of nursing.

Q:What made you choose nursing as a career?

A:I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was 8 years old and began reading Cherry Ames novels about a nurse who also solved mysteries. My mother who was a nurse and my father who was a microbiologist worked at the VA Hospital in Alexandria, La. I often went to work with them. When I was in high school, I became a junior volunteer at the VA hospital, so I knew very well what nurses did and knew that nursing was my chosen profession.

Q:What are the biggest challenges you face as director here?

A:I think the biggest challenge is explaining to decision makers and stakeholders the complexity of the educational programs and the resources needed to provide quality educational programs. Plans are in the works for a new nursing building. The schematic drawings of the building have been submitted to the various university entities for review. Plans for funding this building are progressing.

Q:How do nurses handle the daily stress of caring for sick and dying patients?

A:There is no one answer to this question. Personally, I handled it through my faith and through my belief that through my practice I was providing quality, safe and compassionate nursing care. Nurses also find support from their peers. We teach stress management, healthy lifestyles and remembering that your life outside of your work (e.g. loved ones, family, friends, hobbies) is important.

Q:If you had not become a nurse, what other career path might you have taken?

A:I can’t imagine wanting to be in another field. Nursing is a challenging, yet rewarding profession that gives you the opportunity to impact the lives of so many people. If, for some reason, I had to choose another field, it would be veterinary medicine. I love animals.

Q:What is something about yourself that most people might not know?

A:Wow, there is probably a lot most people don’t know about me. My philosophy in life is to seize opportunities when they present themselves and I have had and continue to have a lot of fun in my life. Most people don’t know that until the age of 28 I was very shy and lacked self-confidence.

Q:Who has been the biggest influence on your life and why?

A:I am very fortunate to have many friends and colleagues who have supported and encouraged me. However, I would have to say that the people who had the biggest influence in my life were my parents who continually told me that I can achieve anything I want and provided me the opportunity and education to fulfill my dreams. My father was interested in every aspect of my life and my career and challenged me to move beyond what everyone else did and to take advantage of opportunities even though I did not have the faith that I could do it.

Q:When you’re no concentrating on your duties as director of the School of Nursing, what other things interest you?

A:I love to watch sports, especially college football and women’s basketball. I also read books, go to movies, travel and visit with my family and friends who live in other states.