Advice from a Nurse Scientist: Success is at the intersection of passion and opportunity

By Teresa Hartmann, PhD
Assistant Professor, Millersville University; Adjunct Faculty, Eastern Mennonite University; 2015 LOHF Nurse Scholarship Recipient


As a nurse scientist, I often reflect on the influencing variables that contributed to where I am today. I believe the variables influencing my own journey are found at the intersection of passion and opportunity.

My Advice: Reflect on your roots

Many have sacrificed for you to get to where you are today.  Thank them, appreciate them, and remember how proud they are of you.

As a second generation American, my immigrant grandparents came from Poland and Italy. My maternal great grandmother had the passion to keep my grandfather out of the Italian army, and seized the opportunity to bring him to the United States. My paternal grandmother followed her husband to the U.S. with passion for a better life. This provided opportunity to her 12 children who she ended up raising as a single mother. Several of those children (my aunts) recognized my passion to become a nurse and gave me opportunity by contributing toward my tuition.

My Advice: Don’t shy away from hard work

Know that there will be sacrifices but they are temporary.

Working in a nursing home in high school, and for an OB-GYN practice on weekends (Yes, I cleaned speculums to pay my nursing school tuition) were my opportunity to pay for school.  As a first-generation college student, I learned that hard work and sacrifice are required. But passion is what drives success. Find your personal Board of Directors—those people who support you in various aspects of life and are willing to speak truth into yours.

My Advice: Never say “Never!”

Be willing to test the system and advocate for yourself.  The answer you get might be, “No.” But often, it will be “Yes.”

Finishing my diploma in nursing, I declared that I would never go back to school. I was tired of working so hard. I wanted to have fun. However, my passion for learning quickly overrode my declaration. I enrolled in Millersville University’s RN-BSN program, where I was the only student the department returning to school for a BSN.

Often, it seemed like an insurmountable battle.  Scheduling was a nightmare. There were no 12-hour shifts so I worked evenings, started classes at 8 a.m., and went right back to work. My experience as a BSN student gave me a passion to advocate for 12-hour shifts, and the answer was “yes.” The Emergency Department agreed to a trial, providing more opportunity to earn a BSN.

My Advice: Immerse yourself in an educational journey

Higher education is a privilege.  Take advantage of every experience and opportunity. Disseminate what you have learned as knowledge that is meant to be shared.

Combining my passion for education and love of emergency nursing, I chose a clinical master’s program in Burns, Emergency, and Trauma Nursing. This gave me opportunity to work in clinical environments with clinical experts. They expanded my knowledge base and mentored me to become a clinical nurse specialist. As an ED nurse, I loved to educate anyone who would listen to me—new grads, patients, co-workers, and physicians.

Years later, I found myself in an uncomfortable place. I had to draw a line in the sand and decide who I was. I chose to stand true to my beliefs and values. Subsequently, I stepped away from education, into case management. This was an opportunity to expand my knowledge about healthcare reimbursement, and explore innovative solutions to patients’ needs. I was passionate about what nurses were accountable for, yet not learning in school.

This passion prompted my 6-year journey toward a PhD. In my PhD program, I derived the concept of financial competency in nursing from other disciplines with the working definition “The intentional actions of a nurse that contribute to the financial sustainability of a healthcare organization (Hartmann, 2012)”. My research focus was in development of an evidence-based educational intervention regarding financial competency in nursing, and investigating if the intervention could impact knowledge and attitudes positively.

After 6 years of research, and the development of two instruments measuring knowledge and attitudes regarding financial responsibilities of nurses in healthcare, I am proud to say that there is a statistically significant increase in knowledge and a statistically significant improvement in attitudes regarding financial competency in nursing following participation in an educational intervention.

Earning my PhD provided opportunity disseminate my findings at conferences and elsewhere.  Publication is the next step. Ultimately, I’m passionate to see these findings validate the contributions of nurses, so that they are economically valued and nursing care becomes fee for service (rather than a part of room and board).  My journey continues.

My Final Advice: Find where passion and opportunity intersect in your journey

Savor those moments and take full advantage of them. Assist others in finding their own intersections. Cheer them on.

Scholarship recipients, the journey is yours. Make it a great one.  Congratulations.

©2018 Hartmann May be used with permission of author.