By Teresa Webb
Program Mentor, College of Health Professions
As a mentor of graduate nursing students, I have found that many of the traits necessary to performing as a professionally competent nurse are the same traits required to be a successful WGU student who thrives in our self-paced, competency-based educational programs.
Professionally competent nurses have acquired the ability to adapt, to be flexible, and to prioritize situationally. Likewise, WGU’s competency-based model encourages students to approach each course with the knowledge they have previously acquired from practice and educational experiences, to develop new competencies with each course of study, and to prove their knowledge through assessments—all adding up to enhance their professional competency. Let’s take a closer look at these traits:
- Flexibility: WGU students are juggling their coursework, careers, and personal lives. The successful WGU student has a willingness to change and compromise in order to achieve their graduation goals. As nurses, we know that inevitably we will have to make choices that will prioritize one task or goal over another, and possibly flex our time for each based on the needs of ourselves and others. Having a study plan and sticking with it is a key to that success, but being flexible with our time is necessary to being competent in nursing and in life.
- Adaptability: WGU students come from a variety of backgrounds and expertise. But what is consistent among them all is the need to adapt in situations. Professionally competent nurses and WGU students have this in common. Successful WGU students adapt to the online learning environment by utilizing course and university resources. They use their problem-solving skills to gain competency through assessments and develop strategies for success in each course that is unique to the topic.
- Situational prioritizaton: In nursing, we call prioritizing situationally triage. Nurses triage each situation and determine its priority for immediate attention versus making the issue wait until a greater priority is handled. Professionally competent nurses know how to assess a situation's priority—and successful WGU students acquire the same prudence by prioritizing their study-work-life balance. Most WGU students have careers and responsibilities in their lives, and they must make prudent decisions as to when it is appropriate to prioritize their study above the other two. Prioritizing differs from procrastination because, as in nursing, we know something else will come up that will take higher priority than what we currently believe is the highest priority, and we need to be ready and available. Those who can find that balance are the most successful in WGU’s competency-based education program.
My name is Teresa Webb. I have worked in nursing education for four years and as a faculty mentor for graduate nursing students at WGU for the last six months. As a professor, I drew from seven years of nursing practice in oncology and acute cardiac/telemetry that required a preceptor/mentor component and from the two-year online journey to complete my MSN to guide advocacy of student access and success. I live in a small village outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, and enjoy the quiet desert evenings with family and friends.