Engaged Learning

USF is My Foundation

An interview with Kathryn Grimley-Baker
Kathryn Grimley-Baker headshot

What are some of the key memories that influence your early years?
In my early years, I did not know any different. One can not miss what one does not have. It was a given that my sisters and I had to make the best of what we had. Being the oldest of three sisters (ok, only older by 4 minutes for one of them), I learned to share. I shared a room, shared a bed and just made it work. My BSN at USF was hard financially. Sister Geraldine (the Dean) sent me to the financial aid office to see what help I could get, and she let me purchase the yellow uniform fabric so I could make my uniform with my grandma’s help.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?
I feel that many of us in nursing have a pivotal moment. Maybe it was a very personal experience, i.e., you were on the other end of the stethoscope or seeing a loved one go through a healthcare crisis. One becomes reflective as they live out a terrible moment and thinks... it can not be without purpose and for whatever reason, one listens and sees it as a calling. That moment for me was when I was in a head on collision on the Great Highway in San Francisco. Seat belts were not the law and therefore, I won't give details.... but as much as I should have been thankful to the various specialist surgeons (which I am), I am very, very grateful to God to have all my sisters still with me. I want to say here that nursing students don't need to have a tragic moment to be good nurses. I feel you will have the moments in your weekly reflection of your work with a patient that will be pivotal and life changing. There will be so many patients in nursing school you will work with and later in your career as a RN that will remind you and strengthen you in so many positive ways. Be mindful, take pause, be reflective, and they will come to you.

What does being a nurse mean to you?
It means everything!!! Especially my BSN at the University of San Francisco (USF). USF gave me the FOUNDATION of all I do in practice. Even as a Nurse Practitioner, my BSN foundational education was the trajectory to who I am today as a nurse, educator, a mom, and sister.  If I did not have such great faculty in the BSN department, especially taking Nursing Research with Sister Brian, I would have never even thought I could go to graduate school. Sister Brian inspired us and planted the seed about going to graduate school. I try to do the same for my students at USF as well.

You chose to come back to USF and teach? What motivated you to do this?
I was looking for something on the side where I would not be locked into giving away my weekends or working more holidays. I was just starting my own family and working part-time at the hospital. Back then (Ok, now I will seem old), there were want-ads in the newspapers. I saw a want-ad that USF was looking for part time faculty. I must say, when you come in for an interview at USF and your resume says you are a USF alumni it was kind of easy peasy... i.e., hired on the spot (hint-hint come on and join us on the hilltop we love our alumni).

Why do you like teaching so much?
LOVE LOVE LOVE did I say LOVE clinical with the students. I really love the joy of being with them for their firsts. First injections, first births, and even first end-of-life care. Their first EVERYTHING! Of course we keep it professional at the bedside. We have a code phrase during clinical if the student does not feel ready in the room i.e., "Professor, I forgot the alcohol swab," and that gets us out of the room to regroup. We are all cool, calm, and collected. Then when we are done, we run to the supply closet and HIGH-FIVE each other. Whooop whoop saying, "You are such a ROCK STAR!!!" I also absolutely love the students' weekly Caritas reflection and the Cura Personalis stories they experience. It is key that students, and experienced RNs, understand nursing is NOT the skills/tasks but that genuine caring scared moments you have with a patient at the bedside.

What makes you a good teacher?
I think the fact I still work as a RN at the bedside keeps me on top of all the updates and changes in technology. Technology has increased over the decades. Plus, by working, I can bring patient care situations, i.e., "what would you do?" What would you ask the MD for?" Because they are situations I just had at work just before class that week. I tell my students there is no such thing as a 'mistake.' They are not 'mistakes' but instead ''learning experiences." Some are 'painful learning experiences,' but it is all good learning. As nurses we need to be more forgiving of ourselves. Have self-compassion. 

Do you bring a different perspective to the students?
I think the other perspective I bring is sharing, less hospital, and more community-related items. I used to volunteer (pre-COVID) at a free clinic for undocumented women in my county.  I shared with students about a population some consider "invisible.” BUT THEY ARE NOT! I try to show a perspective of how important it is for nurses to rise up to the inequities in healthcare.

In your latest article in Nursing2022, you are encouraging nurses to publish.
A nurse does not need an advanced degree nor work in academia to successfully publish, but should have some level of expertise on the topic and have the desire to write. Every article I have written has risen out of something that crossed my nursing path. I want to inspire all nurses, students, and faculty to know they all have a story to share. I would love to see some of my senior capstone students take their capstone projects and publish them. That is why I mostly wrote the article. I would love to see sophomore or junior students share their Caritas Caring moment or their Cura Personalis story. I want nurses to inspire and be inspired.

Any advice for our nursing community?
It has been a tough road. We got through the AIDS epidemic and, more recently, COVID. I have no words other than it has been tough. But we have shown we are strong and we are resilient. We have what it takes. Finally, getting your MSN is super fun!! Nothing like your BSN, in my opinion, because you pick an area or specialty you love. After graduation, you work a bit and look and see ALL the roles and jobs for nurses with master's degrees. Find one you love and go for it. Embrace your education and reach for the stars. 

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