Teaching the new crop of nurses

Published 11:08 pm Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Every May 12, the nursing community at large takes time to celebrate the birthday of one the field’s groundbreakers: Florence Nightingale. Each year, May 12 is International Nurses Day.

Born May 12, 1820, Nightingale became one of the world’s most influential women in the medical profession. Among her many professional achievements, Nightingale began the Nightingale Training School in London as well as the Women’s Medical College.

Nightingale served the profession and the greater good by providing a training ground for those to follow in her path.

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Here in Suffolk, nursing students have a similar role model.

For the past 35 years, Ann Pinner has been an active member of the nursing profession. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in nursing, Pinner moved to Suffolk and began her career as a staff nurse at Obici Hospital. Not long after she began work, she was recruited to work as an educator in the hospital’s school of nursing. It was a move Pinner said she never would have foreseen.

“It was just sort of an opportunity that presented itself early in my career,” Pinner said. “I never saw myself teaching. My mother and both my sisters were teachers. I wasn’t, but I fell in love with it.”

Being a health educator, Pinner supervises her students in the classroom as well as their work with patients in the hospital.

“I’m always a nurse,” Pinner said. “I’m never not a nurse, both in the classroom and the clinical teaching.”

For more than a decade, Pinner continued teaching at Obici before moving with her family to Georgia. When she returned to Suffolk four years ago, the program at Obici was gone, but a nursing program was now available through Paul D. Camp Community College. She began working there, resuming as a health educator.

Her students say it’s a role that she was born to fill.

“She instills in all of us that nursing is a lot more than just what’s in the books,” said Elizabeth Henerfauth, a nursing student at Paul D. Camp. “You can’t just know how to help somebody by reading stuff. She really gives examples in her experiences and even her mistakes so we learn about how really to care for somebody.”

Fellow nursing student Christine DeMonico said Pinner personalizes the nursing program to inspire each student individually.

“There’s just something about her,” DeMonico said. “It’s just like I had known her all my life. She motivates everybody, and she can find something good in everybody. She’s one of those people.”

Pinner said she is, in turn, motivated by her students’ success. Given that she taught in the Obici and Paul D. Camp programs for so long, Pinner routinely runs into her former students when she is out in the community.

“That’s been very neat,” she said. “I still see that they are caring and compassionate, and that is what nursing is all about.”

Pinner also credited the program and staff at Paul D. Camp for being a team dedicated to bringing good, quality nurses into the community.

“It’s a group effort, it’s a team effort,” Pinner said. “We have a wonderful team of women here. We all want to see the students successful and we all will bend over backwards to get them to succeed.”

And what is success for a nurse?

According to Pinner, it is remembering the patient.

“Patients are people just like you and I are,” she said. “We have to remember that we are seeing people at some of the worst times in their life, and we have to remember their personhood. We have to remember that when we are at their bedside. I want my students to treat patients as individual people, to make sure that person is never forgotten.”