Nevada State College nursing professor and avid Garth Brooks fan Dr. Susan Growe has learned to go against the grain.

“When I was working as on oncology nurse, we were educating our patients about their disease and chemotherapy treatments,” she said. “I thought I had a knack for it and liked teaching the patients.”

“When I was getting my master’s degree to move up in the oncology field, I had an interview with a professor in a school of nursing for a project. This professor told me I should teach after graduation. I never looked back.”

Dr. Growe now teaches in the online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. She has been at Nevada State for 16 years.

“I was hired four years after the college opened,” she said. “Their whole mission has always been about caring through Dr. Jean Watson and Dr. Marilyn Ray and following their theories.”

The Caring Science is the basis of the nursing curriculum at Nevada State. Dr. Growe believes that it also provides students with the right approach to patient care.

“Instead of just saying they’re caring, they are living and walking the caring,” she said. “When you see a Nevada State graduate in the field compared to a non-Nevada State graduate, there is a difference…Our students talk to the patients to find out what more they can do for them.”

New Way to Fly

Dr. Growe was born in Illinois, but she traveled the world as part of a military family, which helped shape her future in healthcare.

“As a child growing up, we went to a third-world country run by a dictator,” she said. “I got to see what life was like for a kid growing up who wasn’t wealthy. I didn’t understand it because I was little.

“Then, I saw a show called Nurse, starring Diahann Carroll. I saw this beautiful lady with this beautiful white cap and uniform. She was so professional and smart.

“I was in awe and said, ‘I’d like to do that when I get older.’ Between those two experiences, I watched and learned and saw that maybe I could become one of those nurses.”

But after Dr. Growe graduated from high school, she wasn’t sure if that dream could become a reality because of her grades.

“As I was growing up and getting my education, I didn’t consider myself smart,” she said. “I had to work hard to get a ‘C.’

“Nurses were extremely smart, so I didn’t think I could be a nurse. I started college and dropped out after realizing how hard it was.”

However, when her first husband got sick, she went back to school to learn more about his condition. She graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from the College of Southern Nevada in 1999.

“I was smart enough to get into nursing school,” she said. “I got my degree, and that’s when my educational journey began as a registered nurse.”

Dr. Growe began her career in pediatrics before transitioning to oncology. She wanted to advance her career, so she went back to school to obtain her BSN through a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) track from the University of Phoenix. She continued to further her education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from the University of Phoenix as well. Just when she thought she was done with her education, she completed a terminal degree with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from Touro University in 2014.

What She’s Doing Now

During her tenure, Dr. Growe has seen the nursing program at Nevada State get bigger and better each school year. She teaches several courses, but her primary course is one titled Holistic Health Assessment.

“We had to change the curriculum around a bit,” she said. “We had hardly any students at the beginning. We have grown a lot in the RN to BSN program.

“The new curriculum embedding the Caring Science is wonderful. Students have said how much their assessments and approach to patients have changed. It’s a great program that students seem to like and it changes them for the better.”

The online format is also helpful to healthcare professionals because the asynchronous nature of earning the degree makes it so manageable.

“Our RN to BSN has grown because many hospitals want the BSN-prepared nurses,” she said. “These students get the luxury of attending courses 24/7, any time they need to. We’re pretty flexible. Many of our assignments are due on Sundays to make it convenient for the students.”

Given the stresses and complications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the online RN to BSN program has also helped students cope with the times and earn their degrees from anywhere.

“The beauty of our courses is that we promote and guide the students [nurses] in self-care to reduce burn out,” she said.

Even though Dr. Growe didn’t know if she could be a nurse and never imagined she would be a teacher, she wouldn’t trade her journey for anything.

“I love it,” she said. “What gets me are those ‘a-ha moments’ when the lightbulb clicks for the students. I also like being creative and trying to get students to those moments.”

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