James Benson is an Assistant Professor at Nightingale College. Known for his off-the-wall jokes and card tricks, Mr. B. is a great asset to the Nightingale team. He has been a part of Nightingale since its opening in April of 2011.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Chicago, IL and moved to Utah in 2000.
What inspired you to become a nurse?
I am probably the exception to most nursing students. I had no relatives that were nurses or had an amazing nurse take care of me or a loved one. I obtained my health care administrator degree and license. I decided to become a nurse to balance the business side of health care with the clinical side. I found out that I was very good at nursing and stayed in the field.
What is your favorite or most memorable experience as a nurse?
There are so many to choose from. I did save a patient’s life one time. However, I think that my most memorable experience came after taking care of two ladies (in their 70’s and 90’s) for about eight months at a long-term care center. They shared a room. One night while completing the evening medication pass those ladies told me that I was the only one (staff) that talked with them. I was surprised, because I know people talked with them every time they came in the room. However, I actually talked with them and about them. The woman in her 90’s saw the world change. Her parents had a horse and buggy. They had some of the first ice boxes, refrigerators, automobiles, washing machines, etc. The woman in her 70’s grew up in Slovenia. Her family had to move a lot during World War II to avoid being killed by the Nazis. I took from that experience that nurses should show an interest in their patients as people and not just patients in order to provide their best care (within professional boundaries, of course).
Do you specialize in a specific field of nursing? And why did you pursue that specialty?
I worked in long-term care/Gerontological nursing and then home care, which ended up having a great deal of Gerontological nursing in that. I grew up in a bad neighborhood in Chicago. We were sort of on an island of relative safety among an area which had seven gangs in a two mile radius. There weren’t many children in the neighborhood for most of the time I was growing up. A number of families moved out within the first three years we were there. However, there were a fairly large amount of elderly people that my grandfather and I would talk with when we sat on the porch for a while each evening. Gerontological nursing was a natural extension of this background.
Why did you decide to become a nursing instructor?
I was looking to move to another part of nursing from home care. (Although I have loved what I did in each area of nursing that I have worked, there are so many areas of nursing to expand our capabilities.) I saw an ad for a clinical faculty position at Nightingale College and sent my resume. I had taught various Sunday school classes with my church, taught many small classes for continuing on the job education for U.S. Customs, and had spoken publicly on a number of occasions and had done well with those, so I took a chance and applied, even though I had no formal classroom academic teaching experience. I have done well with teaching, although there is always room for improvement. I enjoy those moments when learners “get it” (the proverbial light bulb moments); when they start making connections, critically thinking, and become self-directed learners. The greatest reward is when learners succeed by doing well in their courses and passing the NCLEX in spite of any challenges they face. It’s an amazing feeling to share in that joy with them.
What advice would you like to share with current learners?
Don’t give up. Nursing school is difficult. Any good nursing program is. I found out that my nursing education was the most challenging I had been through, even though I had challenging moments in my business and health care administration degrees. Everything is about how we apply and analyze the various facts of information we learn. The shift from understanding facts that are learned to learning to think deeper about that information can be a bit of a shock at first. However, millions of people have done that and become nurses, so we can too. None of us are anything special. We are all just regular people that have learned to become more than we might have thought we were capable. If we don’t understand something, we need to work with our instructors and peers to fix those issues when they are small. Don’t wait until the little snowball becomes an avalanche.
If you were not a nurse, what would you do and why?
I would be an astronomer. I love looking in the sky and the physics behind everything. I have a 12 inch primary mirror Dobsonian mount Newtonian reflector telescope that I will be using a lot more once my comprehensive examination and dissertation are done. There is so much beauty in the universe. It’s kind of like looking into the mysteries of creation and figuring out what makes everything work from the very small to the grand scales.
If your life was a musical, what would it be called and what would be your theme song?
The musical would be called “Faith and Reason.” The theme song would be “Look What We Can Do.”
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I am a Doctor Who fanatic. I have every episode from 1963 to today. I also am looking forward to getting another bass set up and sing and play in a band after completing my dissertation, although Mrs. Benson wants to take a cruise after completing her dissertation. I will have to force myself to do that as well.