Millikin University - Decatur, IL
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John Blakeman

Name: John Blakeman '13

Current job position (or additional field of study) and where:
Registered Professional Nurse – Memorial Medical Center, Springfield, Ill., on a cardiothoracic-surgical step-down and general cardiology nursing unit
Graduate Student at Millikin (MSN in Nurse Educator track)
Graduate Assistant for Millikin School of Nursing

Millikin major:
Nursing (BSN)

Why did you choose MU?
When I visited MU, a theme that I heard over and over was that at MU, students are not just numbers, they are individuals. I wanted a school where I would have the opportunity to get to know faculty, staff and administrators and also where they would get to know me. I also wanted to find a school that was not too far from my hometown (Taylorville, Ill.), as family has always been a central component of my life. Additionally, I was drawn to the School of Nursing at Millikin because the faculty seemed interested in engaging with students both inside and outside of the classroom, and I had a very helpful initial face-to-face meeting with the director of the School of Nursing at the time, Dr. Deborah Slayton, and my academic advisor (as both an undergraduate student and now as a graduate student), Dr. Sheryl Samuelson.

What activities did you participate in as a student?

  • Student Senate and Student Senate Executive Board (College of Professional Studies representative and VP of Academic Affairs)
  • Writing Center Tutor
  • Upper-class mentor for the First Year Nursing Living-Learning Community
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Millikin School of Nursing Curriculum Committee
  • Millikin School of Nursing Student Welfare Committee
  • Alpha Tau Delta (nursing fraternity)
  • Tutor for Office of Student Success
  • Emerging Leader Retreat mentor

Who was your most memorable MU professor and why?
The problem with answering this question is that there are just too many professors who have created memorable moments for me and who have shaped my life and who I am today. My advisor and mentor, Dr. Sheryl Samuelson, has kept me on track (personally and professionally) and taught me to be self-reflective and continue to move forward, accomplishing my goals. She has always been available as a sounding board and has enabled me to achieve feats I never thought possible. She always seems to know just how hard to push me and just what to say, and her honesty has always been appreciated and has helped me grow. Further, my freshman seminar professor, Kay White, made significant contributions to my life as a student and individual starting as early as First Week my freshman year. After introducing me to the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” during our seminar class, she has empowered me to develop in all aspects of my life. We had (and still have) many lengthy conversations regarding diverse topics, and she has helped me reflect on my values, beliefs and behaviors to a great extent. Especially as a graduate student, Dr. Kathy Booker has helped me to develop my MSN project and enabled me to enjoy research on a higher level. Her expertise in cardiovascular topics has sparked an interest and guided me to my current project and has also served me well in my professional work as a registered nurse. Other professors, like Dr. Travis Wilcoxen and Dr. Jeff Hughes (both biology professors), have made non-major students like me feel welcomed by inviting us to their homes for a meal and socializing. Mary Garrison welcomed me into her human services classrooms when I was interested in expanding my horizons outside of nursing, and Dr. Nancy Curtin welcomed me into her intercultural communication classroom so that I could learn to reflect on different cultures’ communication styles. Prof. Isabel Ososki has helped me improve as a critical thinker and pushed me during my undergraduate years during clinical. As a graduate student, I have been able to collaborate with her in teaching pathophysiology for current undergraduates. She always has a fresh approach to educating new nurses, and she has taught me how to teach and facilitate learning more effectively. The list really does go on and on, including people like Prof. Judi Crowe, Dr. Pam Lindsey, Dr. Mike George, Dr. Ken Laundra, Dr. Deb Jenkins, Dr. Jo Carter, Dr. Karla Luxner, Prof. Pam Laskowski, Dr. Sheila Jesek-Hale, Prof. Barb Connelley, Dr. Cheryl Hilgenberg, Dr. Marilyn Prasun, Prof. Charlotte Bivens, Dr. Mary Jane Linton, Prof. Jamie Nickell, Dr. Clarence Josefson, Dr. James St. James, Dr. William Keagle, and Dr. Anne Rammelsberg.

What is your most memorable MU experience?
Again, so many experiences exist, and it’s hard to pick my “most” memorable. Two memories stick out especially. First, I was able to work with my academic advisor, Dr. Sheryl Samuelson, on a research project that took nearly a year to complete. She and I, along with Kim McEvoy ’11, analyzed a piece of embroidery created in the 1960s by a patient with schizophrenia. This project afforded a look into the life of a patient that did not communicate verbally and helped shed light on nursing practice in general. Because of this project, I was able to travel to places like Louisville, Ky., St. Joseph, Mo., and Chicago to present our research. Additionally, I published an article in the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services as a result of this project. The other very memorable experience was serving as a mentor for the freshman nursing learning community during my senior year. Many of those younger students have become lifelong friends, and I still communicate with them on a regular basis. We had many, many fun times together, and I think we were able to learn a lot from each other.

What is one concept you learned at Millikin that you use in your work regularly?
By far the most important concept I learned at Millikin was critical thinking. Every single moment I am at work, I use critical thinking skills to help anticipate problems that could arise so that I can prevent them from happening. Really, it’s about being proactive. Throughout my classes, I was always asked to think harder and more fully. It was never just about facts; it was about applying facts to situations and evaluating them in order to provide the best patient care possible.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is not starting IVs or changing wound dressings or reading heart rhythms on the monitor or even providing interventions that save a life. For me, the most enjoyable part of my job is getting to know patients. Patients are individuals, after all, and they each have a very unique story. When I am able to understand their story, I can then do a better job as a nurse, helping them achieve health and wellness.

What have you done that you are most proud of since graduating from MU?
I think I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to successfully balance my life working as a professional nurse with being a student and graduate assistant. Specifically, I have been able to begin very interesting and needed research on nursing interventions after a non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, prior to definitive treatment with a cardiac stent, angioplasty, coronary artery bypass graft surgery or other advanced intervention. I am also currently working with two other nurses to optimize ST-segment monitoring for myocardial ischemia in patients with continuous cardiac monitoring.

Where do you hope to be five years from now?
Five years from now, I see myself in a PhD program at a well-known nursing institution. I hope to be teaching as a nursing professor, as well as conducting research and working in the hospital setting per diem as a staff nurse to stay current in practice.

What is a short piece of advice you'd give to current Millikin students about preparing for life after graduation?
Start planning for graduation your freshman year, and consider your values, beliefs and behaviors in what you plan to do after graduation. Be proactive and take advantage of opportunities you are exposed to during school. Additionally, talk with faculty members in your field of interest to get their perspective.


Want to be spotlighted as the "Young Alum of the Month?" We are seeking recommendations and self-nominations for outstanding young alumni who have demonstrated innovative and responsible professional leadership and have the potential for future success. Email Jaclyn Weisenborn Cantwell ’09, associate director of alumni engagement, with a short write-up of why you or your nominee should be considered for this profile. Please include a list of successes and achievements in your nomination, and attach a portrait or headshot (if available). One alum will be featured each month in MY Times.


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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL