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University of Phoenix Award-Winning Faculty Member on Career Changes and Student Support

A Personal Path to Nursing

University of Phoenix Award-Winning Faculty Member on Career Changes and Student Support

Beverly Jensen, MSN, RN, CNE, knows all about making big, important career changes. She understands the powerful, transformational impact such redirections can have both professionally and personally.

As someone who switched careers to become a nurse, Jensen has seen first hand the impact that her decision has had on her patients. And as an educator, she continues to learn from her students while she imparts wisdom, experience and practical knowledge on adult learners in her classes at University of Phoenix.

A faculty member in the University’s Master of Science in Nursing degree program, Jensen was named a 2020 Faculty of the Year Award winner. She was one of just 15 faculty at the University to be honored for their excellence in the classroom out of more than 1,300 nominations.

Jensen has taught at University of Phoenix since 2005. For her, the journey to higher education has been similar to that of many University students who find opportunity and focus in exploring new educational offerings. Whether an individual is well-established in their profession or looking for a change, using University of Phoenix can be a pathway to new experiences and challenges

A Personal Path to Nursing

Jensen worked on the frontlines as a first responder both caring for people and solving problems. She worked as a 911 dispatcher and then as a civil deputy sheriff for 14 years. She found herself ready for change, convinced that she was done with the adrenaline rush that came from working in and supporting law enforcement. Jensen said that she looked for a professional opportunity where “people would actually be glad to see me.”

Jensen was in the middle of a program to become a special education teacher when she had an epiphany. It came during a school field trip she chaperoned for her daughter. The trip took them to Portland from their town in rural northeastern Oregon. Its intent? Show the students some future career possibilities. Jensen saw the career possibilities for her in healthcare, and she decided to switch majors. She felt she was too old to start medical school, but it was a good time to consider a career in nursing. She switched programs and excelled at her academic work.

Jensen did not want to work in a hospital setting, preferring instead to work with children and their parents. She began looking at jobs where she could apply her nursing degree and took work with the State of Oregon working with foster children as a nurse consultant. In addition, she worked with the state’s Education Service District Program helping children with special needs.

She also began pursuing a master’s degree in nursing. Telling her story, she joked, “I have always thought that the perfect job for me would be to be paid to learn.” With that achievement, Jensen began teaching at a nearby community college and began working with the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education.

The Consortium plays a pivotal role in helping nursing professionals attain higher-level degrees. The group created a curriculum shared between state community colleges and Oregon Health & Science University, helping advance nurses from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree. The model that the consortium developed was shared across the country.

Practical Experience Brought to University of Phoenix

When Jensen arrived at University of Phoenix, she brought with her real-life curricular experience and nursing credentials along with her past professional background. She believes that this unique combination resonates with her students.

Jean Pickus, MSN, RN, worked with Jensen for 10 years while Pickus was the regional director of academic affairs for the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix. Pickus, now retired as a director but still a University of Phoenix instructor, has high praise for what makes Jensen stand out as an educator. “Beverly holds all students to the highest standards but is also very nurturing and supportive,” she said.

Jensen works to establish genuine connections with her students. As an example, she cites a student whose sister had died, leaving behind a child who was to be placed into the foster care system. Jensen shared her own experiences working with the foster care system in Oregon. Later, the student expressed gratitude to Jensen, saying she had never had a teacher who had shared something so personal. “I think making that human connection makes a difference,” Jensen said.

Jensen can also relate to the careful balance adult learners have to face when going back to school. Juggling personal, professional and academic obligations can be hard at times. While in her master’s degree program, Jensen supported a disabled husband and a teenager struggling with personal issues. Knowing people have their own challenges, she structures her classes to reduce the stress burden placed on students.

She also believes empathy plays a key role in student success. Jensen knows that adult students come to their work with the burdens of everyday life as well as situations that can build barriers to degree program completion. She points to her own situation, where she pursued a master’s degree while going through a divorce from a 30-year marriage.

During the past year, empathy was certainly put to the test. Jensen teaches clinical nursing classes, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, students faced illness themselves, had to cope with very sick and dying COVID-10 patients, and did not have access to clinical sites where students learn practical skills. “Beverly has been the foundation to keep these students progressing in their program with her strong, nurturing attitude,” Pickus said. “She is truly a role model for all of us to follow.”

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix offers adult learners courses online and on campus towards associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Classes are held frequently and are both designed and taught by faculty members who are active professionals in their field. Visit www.phoenix.edu to learn more.

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