Nursing faculty Pat Durham-Taylor began teaching at TMCC 37 years ago. A Psychiatric-Mental health Nurse Practitioner, she has always worked several shifts in local hospitals even as performing the duties of a full-time faculty in the Maxine S. Jacobs Nursing Program. “I always wanted to keep my credibility up for our students,” she explained.
While many TMCC faculty are also practitioners and professionals in their fields, Durham-Taylor explained that the Nursing curriculum in the 1980s was very different than it is today, and required much more on-campus involvement from TMCC faculty. Durham-Taylor, who taught both theory and clinical classes to first-year and second-year nursing students, remembered that in TMCC's early days faculty were not only responsible for delivering course material, but also for setting up the learning and lab spaces, obtaining supplies, and coordinating with local hospitals for clinical lessons that occurred on-site.
“We used to have theory class on Mondays and Thursdays, and we would go to the hospital in the acute care setting with the students on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Fridays, we had faculty meetings. So we would be on campus or in the local hospitals five days a week. [On days we went to the hospitals], we would begin at 6:30 in the morning and work until mid-afternoon. Or, sometimes we would do an afternoon shift, which began at noon and we would stay until 10 or 11 at night. So, it was a pretty involved schedule,” she remembered.
The first class Durham-Taylor taught at TMCC was a class on pediatrics. Always a faculty—and a person—to make the best out of any opportunity, Durham-Taylor agreed to teach the class. “When I first started they needed someone to teach that class, and since I had worked in the intensive care and newborn ICU, [I stepped forward and did my best],” she said.
A lifelong professional in the healthcare field, Durham-Taylor brought knowledge and insights to her students from a long career in healthcare.
A Lifelong Nursing Professional
Durham-Taylor remembers a day when she was a fifteen-year-old sophomore at a Catholic high school in Providence, Rhode Island when the nuns called her classmates together to talk about a program called the “Neighborhood Youth Corps” that would provide free on-the-job training to students who were interested in becoming nurses.
Durham-Taylor and a handful of other students from her high school would ride a bus to an inner-city hospital called St. Joseph’s. “After school, we would take public transportation via bus to the other side of town and we’d work there two nights a week and occasionally on the weekend,” Durham-Taylor said. The experience inspired her to continue her education at the University of Rhode Island where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Following graduation, she worked at several area hospitals before moving to San Francisco where she worked at UCSF in the Neonatal Intensive Care. Yet, her desire to become a Nurse Practitioner is what brought her to Reno, where UNR had just started a Nurse Practitioner program.
Durham-Taylor would be a part of the program’s second graduating class. It took her three years to earn her nursing credential because she decided to take both the nursing practitioner track and the educator track. The move to Reno also brought her to Saint Mary’s Hospital, where she worked in the critical care, post-anesthesia care, and neonatal intensive care units for 36 years, and to TMCC as a part of the full-time nursing faculty. She would also continue her education to earn a Ph.D. in Education from UNR as well as an additional Nurse Practitioner degree.
“I wanted to work in the field I taught in...Saint Mary’s was very accommodating to the TMCC academic calendar. So, for years I worked on the weekends, in the summer, and on winter break as a per-diem registered nurse while teaching at TMCC. I did this to keep up my skills and to add credibility for students and my role as a faculty, ” she said.
Changing Aspects of Nursing Education
The Nursing Program has been a part of TMCC since nearly its inception and has been long recognized by the community for producing graduates who are knowledgeable and qualified healthcare professionals. Although the program has changed over the years to include not just a two-year Associate of Nursing (ADN) program, but an RN to BSN program, the attention to student success remains the same. “Graduates of TMCC’s Nursing Program have been well-known in the community because they are ready to go to work,” Durham-Taylor said.
In the early days, she remembers that hospitals would donate sterile supplies that had expired to the program, and that she and other faculty would spend extra hours repairing lab equipment, nursing beds, and mannequins. The supplies available at the college, at least in its early years, were scarce. “The budgets were tight,” Durham-Taylor said. “In the Nursing Department, we used to print out these thick packets for students that contained their clinical materials, all their lectures… a comprehensive packet of the course material for the semester. So, of course, we printed them out for the students because there weren’t any computers. Anyway, right before the semester, we received notice that we exceeded the $75 printing budget we had, so we had to send the packets to a print shop to get it done.”
Durham-Taylor also remembers other signs of the times: the student demographic in the 1980s was predominantly female. “Back then, the majority of our students consisted of females including single mothers looking to begin a new career,” she said. “Coming into the nursing program in the 1980s, it helped a lot of women to get a career that could support their families, so I think a lot of students decided to go into the program for personal and economic reasons.” It would take years for the kind of students in the program to change: these days, Durham-Taylor sees more first-generation students, as well as returning students who may already have degrees and years of experience in other professions.
Also, entry into the program was much more simple in the 1980s than it is today. The two prerequisites included completing English 101 and the Anatomy and Physiology 1 class. Completing those two requirements enabled students to put their name on a waiting list. “It was easy to get into the program: you just had to sign up on a list in Admissions and Records,” said Durham-Taylor. “By the time your name came up on the list, you needed to complete another class, Anatomy and Physiology 2 as well as have a 2.2 GPA.” At one point, the list would include 240 students who wanted entry into the TMCC Nursing Program.
“I remember one young man who had his name on the list and he was the last one to be admitted that semester,” Durham-Taylor said. “The girl on the list after him, her sister had been admitted that semester and so he decided to waive his entry that semester, so the two sisters could be in the nursing program together.”
Durham-Taylor remembers another student who, after getting a divorce, lived in an RV parked in the backyard of a family member’s home with her two school-aged children so she could afford to take classes in the Nursing program and support her family. “She was a 21-dealer at Harrah's and would work until 2 a.m… and she never told any of this until after she graduated from the program.”
Regardless of a student’s circumstances or life outside of TMCC, Durham-Taylor remained an advocate focused on their educational and professional success. For students who struggled to meet policies, program structure rules, and requirements, she collaborates with them to come up with workable solutions. “I always make sure students follow the nursing policies, and so I have learned to help students to deal with this early in my teaching career. We and the local hospitals and clinical agencies have a lot of policies and rules: you have to be at clinical on time, you have to remember your preparation—you can’t just show up. You can’t have your cell phone with you, for example.”
For students who do not meet the requirements, Durham-Taylor asks a very simple question: “What can we do together to make sure you’re successful in the program?” She makes sure the student comes up with a solution that truly addresses their barriers while maintaining protocols and professionalism that are required of someone in the nursing program and who will work in the healthcare field.
Supporting Student Success
The student success stories from TMCC’s Nursing Program are many; working in the community hospitals often enabled Durham-Taylor to connect students to career opportunities in specific areas of care in which they were interested. She also served as a reference for graduates and wrote recommendations for students who chose to pursue more education after graduating from TMCC.
For students considering an education and career in nursing, Durham-Taylor said they can look forward to a discipline that invites and inspires critical thinking that also instills a sense of purpose. “As a Nurse, you help people… and you’re in demand,” she said. “And there is this sense of accomplishment that you have completed something, whether it's our academic program or you help others in this really critical way.”
Over 37 years, Durham-Taylor sees TMCC as offering access to education to students in education and career paths that serve the community’s needs. “As a TMCC student, you don’t have to fit a ‘prescribed mold.’ There is an acceptance of all different kinds of students,” she said. Offering these educational opportunities at an affordable cost, delivered by faculty who are invested in student success as well as their professions—that, she said, provides value.
“I have always thought that education is worth its cost… but here, the college cares about students. And the people who work here, want to work here.”
For more information about the Maxine S. Jacobs Nursing Program, contact the department at 775-850-4054.