Nightingale Challenge Nurse Educator Feature: Electra Allen, MSN, RN, CPN

by Electra Allen, MSN, RN, CPN, Electra Allen, MSN, RN, CPN, Assistant Professor, Biola University | August 4, 2021

Throughout 2020―aptly named The Year of the Nurse―Kaplan was proud to participate in Nursing Now’s Nightingale Challenge with the aim of mentoring the next generation of nurse educators. We matched our Kaplan Educators with remarkable nurses from across the United States to provide leadership and development training in addition to monthly virtual meetings to discuss topics such as curriculum development, trends in teaching, the Next Generation NCLEX, overcoming professional challenges, and much more. Throughout this year, we are excited to share interviews with these Nightingale Challenge mentees. This month, we're pleased to introduce you to Electra Allen, MSN, RN, CPN, Assistant Professor, Biola University.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF

I was born and raised in Virginia. I completed my undergraduate nursing degree at Hampton University and began my nursing career in the Emergency Department of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA. After moving to Southern California, I worked in the level one trauma center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I enjoy the pace of the ED and the opportunity to provide physical and holistic care to children and families during difficult times. After earning my MSN in Nursing Education from Duke University, in 2015, I became a full-time faculty member at BIOLA University in La Mirada, CA. In addition to Pediatrics, I have taught Advanced Med-Surg, Mental Health, Community, and Pharmacology.

What is your particular area of expertise?

My area of expertise is Pediatric Nursing, with my clinical background specifically in Pediatric Emergency Nursing. My passion as an educator is providing emotional and spiritual support for my students, and my scholarship focus is the generational characteristics of nursing students.

Who or what experience inspired you to become a nurse?

In high school, I fell in love with science and became fascinated by how the mind and body are designed. Teaching has always been something I enjoyed. I helped friends with science during high school and college. Nursing is a great way to combine my appreciation of psychology, anatomy & physiology, and teaching! The fact that it is also one of the most respected professions and I have the ability to impact the lives of others through such meaningful work makes it even more of an honor. 

If you hadn’t become a nurse, what other profession would you have pursued? 

I’m sure I’d still be teaching in some form! Production is also a passion of mine, so perhaps I would have pursued full-time work in theatre or film. 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A NURSE EDUCATOR

Why did you decide to pursue a career as a nurse educator? 

Becoming a nurse educator was my plan from the start. In fact, in nursing school I was voted “Most Likely to Become a Nursing Professor” by my classmates.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?      

Mentoring students and providing holistic student care are very rewarding for me. I love being alongside students to help them develop their critical thinking as well as their emotional intelligence. 

In your opinion, why is it important to teach students to “think like a nurse?”

We walk around with the world of knowledge at our fingertips through our smartphones. So much of our students’ lives has been personalized, and they have grown up in a world where even truth can become a relative concept where people can pick and choose the science they agree with. As a result, the role of the educator moves to an emphasis on discernment, critical thinking, and metacognition. Learning “how to learn” and how to “think like a nurse” are crucial for this evidence-based field. 

How can nurse educators best prepare students for the realities and rigors of nursing?

Nursing is a difficult profession and nurses are not exempt from anxiety, depression, or unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance use. Helping students to reflect on their learning and personal growth as they develop emotional intelligence is vital! We can provide students with the tools they need to process expectations, experiences, and responses, while role modeling self-care and healthy coping strategies. 

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing nurse educators today?

There are several undeniable challenges that we are facing as nurse educators, such as difficulty finding acute care sites and the need for creative clinical experiences. I believe that we are also beginning to encounter rising challenges relating to our students themselves. This generation requires additional emotional and spiritual support. Adolescence is prolonged well into the twenties, and the world our students navigate is difficult. We cannot take things like professionalism, literacy, emotional maturity, and a general acceptance of science being rooted in absolute truths for granted. The implications for these challenges must be considered by nurse educators in order to best support our students and equip our graduates for the nursing profession.

THE NIGHTINGALE CHALLENGE

Tell us about your experience during the Nightingale Challenge with Kaplan. 

I felt such a sense of support during this experience! This was especially valuable during a pandemic, when an already demanding job reached new levels of difficulty. 

What was the best part of working with your Kaplan Nursing Mentor? 

Audrey Schou is an amazing mentor! She did a fantastic job of getting to know me and identifying resources to help meet my needs. She was an immense source of encouragement and she went out of her way to provide me with opportunities to develop my scholarly pursuits and share my passions with other nurse educators.

Which Nightingale Challenge Meeting resonated most deeply with you and why?

Our first session stands out as one of my favorites. Dr. Becky Oglesby shared about Interactive Methods for Learning. There were so many practical tips and fun ideas!  

What is the most important thing that you learned from this experience about being a successful and impactful nurse educator?

It’s a team effort as we learn together and share our experiences and expertise!

What was the most important takeaway for you from 2020: Year of the Nurse and Midwife?

While there will always be progress to be made, I believe that we really saw the type of nursing that Florence Nightingale envisioned during our profession’s response to this COVID-19 pandemic.

ADVICE

What advice would you give to the next generation of nurse educators based on this experience?

Remember that you’re not in this alone. Surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable and who are passionate about what they do!

What advice do you offer your students as they prepare for NCLEX and/or starting their nursing careers?

Learn how to learn! We will never know everything, and it is so important to balance humility while still having the courage to speak up and advocate for evidence-based practice.

LOOKING AHEAD

What will the COVID-19 pandemic change about the way we prepare nursing students for their careers?

This pandemic continues to validate the value of simulation, and pushes us to make creative changes that we may have otherwise been afraid to try! 

And finally, is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

As we work toward aligning our learning strategies with the science and student characteristics, we may encounter some resistance. So, show your students more of the process. (Hopefully) very little of what we do is busy work, so explain the reasons and rationale in order to gain their buy-in and help them think critically even about their own learning.  

Also, as a nurse educator, your students need YOU. Offer yourself, be real, and role model the ongoing practice of self-reflection and what it looks like to navigate the nursing profession. 

NCLEX® is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. Test names are the property of the respective trademark holders, none of whom endorse or are affiliated with Kaplan.

I was born and raised in Virginia. I completed my undergraduate nursing degree at Hampton University and began my nursing career in the Emergency Department of Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA. After moving to Southern California, I worked in the level one trauma center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. I enjoy the pace of the ED and the opportunity to provide physical and holistic care to children and families during difficult times. After earning my MSN in Nursing Education from Duke University, in 2015, I became a full-time faculty member at BIOLA University in La Mirada, CA. In addition to Pediatrics, I have taught Advanced Med-Surg, Mental Health, Community, and Pharmacology.

See more posts by Electra Allen, MSN, RN, CPN, Electra Allen, MSN, RN, CPN, Assistant Professor, Biola University