Mary Jane Linton
FACULTY MEMBER SINCE: 1980
EDUCATION: Ed.D., Illinois State University; M.S., Texas Women’s University; B.S., Millikin University
TITLE: Associate Professor of Nursing
Amy Hodges: You have been a faculty member in the School of Nursing for many years, but before you moved to teaching you were a practicing nurse. Why did you choose nursing as a profession?
Mary Jane Linton: From the day I was born, I was nurtured by nurses. My mother, my aunt and many of mother’s friends were nurses. From a very early age, I was fascinated by my mother’s stories about her career. My dad was also very proud of my mother’s career. I never thought of doing anything else, largely because of mother’s influence in my life – I was and continue to be very inspired by her. She was a beautiful lady- inside and out. From the moment I set foot in a hospital, I was very intrigued by the environment, the crisp, white uniforms and the confidence and professionalism portrayed by nurses, and wanted to be a part of it and care for those who were ill. I even liked the clean, medicinal aroma of the hospital environment. That aroma continues to draw images of mom and her uniform in my mind.
AH: What nursing field did you specialize in?
MJL: I was a MedSurg (Medical-Surgical) nurse. In this specialty, nurses deal with caring for adults with chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, as well as patients preparing for or recovering from surgical intervention. It also focuses heavily on patient education and preventative health, which is more important than ever with the increasing incidence of diseases related to lifestyle and modifiable risk factors. Health education is vital to the goal of decreasing the need for acute care services and decreasing health care costs.
AH: What do you like most about being a nurse?
MJL: I love making a difference in the lives of others. The sad, yet inevitable truth of being a nurse is that your patients don’t always get better – which makes it all the more gratifying when they do. I love working with patients and watching their health improve. Even if I cannot always help my patients regain their previous level of health, I can help assure that they have the best quality of life for the time they have left. It is gratifying to know that my care, and in some cases, teaching has made a difference in their lives.
AH: It’s obvious that you loved being at the bedside, working with patients. How did you move from the hospital to the classroom?
MJL: I was employed at Decatur Memorial Hospital and the director of the School of Nursing approached me and asked if I would be willing to teach for six months. I was reluctant at first, but after spending some time in the classroom and the clinical areas with students, I discovered how much I loved nursing education. Over 30 years later, here I am!
AH: What is your greatest satisfaction with teaching nursing?
MJL: The most rewarding moment is seeing students get excited about learning, and witnessing the impact I have on them becoming excellent nursing professionals. It is awe-inspiring to think of the rippling effect of educating nurses. Through nursing education I believe I indirectly touch an infinite number of lives. It is a good feeling that I have made a difference. I love watching my students succeed in the workplace following graduation.
AH: What is the biggest change in nursing over the past 30 years?
MJL: The use of informatics (electronic patient records) has changed the field of healthcare in a major way. With the advancement of technology in the healthcare field, there’s no excuse for using outdated or incorrect information in healthcare. Technology has also changed the role of the patient – with the plethora of online resources, patients are more educated than ever and are more willing to question the treatment prescribed by their caregivers. The access to health care resources has impacted the quality of care. Healthcare professionals are expected to delivery high-quality evidence-based care. Through technology, healthcare professionals can and should access the most current guidelines to provide care based on the most current information.
I would say that caregivers are more aware than ever about medical error, and constantly look for ways to avoid it. Again, technology has made it easier to share safety information and best practices. The media’s attention to medical error has had an effect on the attitudes of patients – they tend to be more skeptical than they were 20 years ago. Although caregiver standards are higher than they’ve ever been, the introduction of online media, blogs, etc., has made it easier for patients to express their uncertainty with healthcare today.
AH: You are a breast cancer survivor – how did this experience change your perspective on healthcare and the role of caregivers?
MJL: As a patient, I was the recipient of care from many of the students that I have helped educate over the years. I felt incredibly well taken care of, and it was wonderful to know that I had played a role in their development as professional nurses. One of my former students actually worked as my regular nurse at the cancer care center, and I can remember her saying, “Gosh, I hope I get this IV right the first time since you taught me how!” She was terrific. In general, I learned what it is like to be a patient actually on the waiting end for results. I also learned first hand approaches that convey compassion and approaches that should be avoided.
I’ve become actively involved in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, as well as the Education Network to Advance Cancer Clinical Trials (ENACCT). There are a lot of misconceptions about clinical trials, and many healthcare professionals lack knowledge and/or information about them. ENACCT was founded in 2004 with support from the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and is the only national organization devoted solely to identifying, implementing and evaluating community-centered approaches to cancer clinical trials education. Ultimately, the organization seeks to increase cancer clinical trial participation and access to quality care for all cancer patients, especially those from underserved communities. I feel blessed to be a survivor and want to help others through the time of this difficult diagnosis and treatment.
AH: What do you hope students will take away from their classes and interactions with you?
MJL: I hope my students have respect and compassion for others, a knowledge base in medical-surgical nursing that gives them the confidence to be safe beginning-level practitioners, and passion for the delivery of safe, quality, patient-centered care. In addition, professionalism is so important – always presenting a professional appearance, and enthusiasm for nursing and learning. Above all else, I hope that I have modeled a commitment to life-long learning.
Faculty 411 is an interview series featuring Millikin faculty members. If you’d like to suggest a faculty member to be spotlighted in the next installment of Faculty 411, e-mail Media Relations Coordinator Amy Hodges at firstname.lastname@example.org.