Nevada State College was beginning its 11th year as an institution when Dr. Kimberly Falco arrived as a part-time instructor in 2013.

“It’s grown so much,” she said. “When I started teaching for Nevada State, they had a warehouse for a campus. The nursing school was renting office space in a strip mall.

“I would get off work, drive over to the strip mall in Henderson and teach. My classes used to be tiny. It was a unique experience, but I really like the school because its mission is different.”

The nursing program, in particular, bases its curriculum on the teachings of the Theory of Human Caring by Dr. Jean Watson.

“That’s important when I talk about Nevada State and why I teach there,” she said. “It’s a minority-serving institution. Every nurse needs to look at the diversification of healthcare.

“Nursing is predominantly female and white. We have historically not reflected the populations we care for and diversified our profession, but we’re doing better.”

Dr. Falco works full time as a coach and mentor for the Office of Academic Affiliations in the Department of Veterans Affairs when she is not teaching Synthesis of Professional Nursing, the final course in the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.

“My hope is that the students pick up little nuggets of wisdom and pearls of knowledge along their journey,” she said. “Then, they meet with me at the end, and I help them translate that into how their practice should evolve and operationalize that knowledge into their real-world practice.

“A lot of times when you think about theoretical knowledge and what we learn in school, there’s a disconnect between how you put that into play recognizing the limitations of your knowledge in a larger, broader perspective.”

Coast to Coast

Dr. Falco was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, but she moved west with her parents. “I had a first career as an artist and then got in a bad car accident that required reconstructive surgery,” she said. “That experience … at a young age made me decide I wanted to make a difference in healthcare.”

After returning to college, Dr. Falco completed a pair of bachelor’s degrees in nursing (2001) and nutrition (2002). She added a Master of Science in Nursing (2009) and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (2013). All four of those degrees are from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“When I was sitting in class for my BSN, I swore that if I survived nursing school, I would teach,” she said. “I wanted to give back to the people who helped me develop into the nurse I am today.”

“Everyone experiences teachers they resonate with and teachers they suffer through because they must. My goal was always to be the kind of teacher that was there for my students and partner with them for their success.”

Passing on her healthcare knowledge and experience is the biggest reason Dr. Falco comes back to teaching each school year. She encourages one-on-one sessions with her students because the course material is difficult, and she loves helping students apply coursework knowledge to the real world.

“When I meet with new students, I try to build personal relationships,” she said. “I always tell them that we have lots of hard concepts and to reach out to me.”

Moving Ahead

Even as a part-time instructor, Dr. Falco meets regularly with Nevada State leadership to grow and refine the information that she teaches nursing students.

“When you look at technology in nursing and caring concepts in nursing, science is occurring at a rapid rate in our world,” she said. “With the evolution of the COVID-19 vaccine, everyone watched it unfurl before their eyes on the nightly news. That’s only one small drop in the bucket of all of the research and knowledge accumulated in health and science.

“We have to teach our graduates how to find and translate information that’s valuable to their patient population. BSN-prepared nurses analyze and synthesize knowledge, looking at many different aspects of the information they review to enhance their patient care.”

Dr. Falco believes that the online format is especially important for nursing students to facilitate their higher education while maintaining tricky work schedules.

“There’s a huge bonus to be able to teach online,” she said. “You are teaching nurses who are actively working. They’re doing a 12-hour shift in your local hospital or working in your doctor’s office eight hours a day … five days a week.

“The RN to BSN program also allows people in rural settings or in different states to participate if they find that the curriculum meets their professional development goals. The curriculum is designed to be delivered online.”

Dr. Falco and her husband, Ken, have two daughters. Her youngest is aspiring to follow in her footsteps and become a nurse. Perhaps someday they will both work in healthcare at the same time. If so, Dr. Falco will likely still be teaching in her spare time.

“Education is in my blood, my mother Barbara practiced nursing for 62 years, and she also taught nursing,” she said. “Nevada State is a first-generation school. Many of my students are the first person in their families to seek a college education.

“That aligns very much with my ideal of giving back and growing the healthcare profession. The pandemic has brought to light the need to solidify and strengthen healthcare.”

Learn more about Nevada State College’s online RN to BSN program.