Leaving the classroom behind, Professor Shelley Miller assumed directorship of the nursing program at OCCC on Jan. 4.
“In my heart, I still am that bedside nurse that takes care of the patients,” Miller said. “I have always loved being there.“
Miller will be leading one of the largest nursing schools in Oklahoma with 18 full-time faculty, plus 36 adjunct faculty. OCCC graduated approximately 180 students in the registered nursing program last year, she said.
Miller has taught at OCCC since 2003 when she began as an adjunct instructor. She joined the faculty full-time in 2012.
Most recently she worked as team leader for the nursing career ladder pathway program. The career ladder program is designed for students who currently are paramedics or licensed practical nurses. The program builds on their knowledge and prepares them to test for their registered nursing license.
Miller said she will miss connecting with students and seeing their creativity through class presentations.
“I teach in a different way now,” Miller said. Through her new position she will be working with faculty to help implement new and varied ways of teaching the curriculum.
Miller said she was inspired to teach through encouragement from her peers while practicing nursing at the Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City. During her 10 years as a critical care nurse, she said she found herself sharing her knowledge with students on rotations at the hospital.
“I always had faculty say, ‘You should really consider teaching,’” she said. “I loved to have the students… and pull them in and say, ‘You’ve got to come see this!’”
Miller explained that the education gained from a classroom is the root of providing excellent patient care.
“It’s not all about the textbook,” Miller said. “It’s about compassion and touching lives of individuals.
“It’s a blend of art and science,” she said, explaining how a clinical classroom provides the arena to hone skills and to extend compassion while understanding the direct connection between the two—something she believes the OCCC program excels at.
Miller is prepared to make the necessary changes to combat the challenges of the ever-changing healthcare industry.
She said the U.S. as a whole has shifted from acute patient care inside large hospitals to community based care in smaller clinics.
Patients are seeing fewer hospital rooms and undergoing outpatient surgeries with fewer post-surgery overnight stays.
“We have a very solid program and the changes that we make really align with the changes that are occurring in our community,” Miller said.
Committed to excellence for the nursing students, Miller said, she is working alongside partners from clinics and hospitals in the metro area and with the program’s advisory board to get feedback about practical challenges and trends nurses are facing in the healthcare field.
The most recent official results from the Oklahoma Board of Nursing place OCCC at an 89.4 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Pass rates are calculated on the first time nursing graduates who take the test.
The college’s program had 217 candidates taking the test in 2014, the most of any nursing school in the state, Miller said.
The second most candidates belonged to the University of Oklahoma with 149. More than half of the state schools represented had candidates in double digits. OCCC’s pass rate in 2014 exceeded the state average of 83.55 percent, and the national rate of 81.79 percent, for the same year.
Miller already has insight into OCCC’s NCLEX scores from 2015. She believes the OCCC pass rate will be even better than the year before.
Miller replaces the previous nursing school director, Deborah Myers, who was promoted to dean of the Health Professions Division. Myers moved to her new position last August. She said she is pleased to see Miller promoted.
“She’s a fabulous fit for nursing program director,” Myers said. Miller is highly qualified to lead the program with a master’s degree in nursing, her years of clinical experience and educational experiences as well.
“The size of the program on a daily basis was the biggest issue that I dealt with,” Myers said. “It’s like having a large family… there are always going to be issues… because of the sheer number of individuals that you are working with.”
Myers said the large program at OCCC encompasses as many as 450 students, three different nursing programs and the busy full-time and part-time staff.
She believes that Miller has the necessary skills to keep all the moving parts of the program in place.
“Her communication is probably her best asset,” said Myers of Miller. “She’s able to de-escalate situations if they should arise.”
Miller will have her hands full overseeing the daily operations of the program as well as satisfying regulations with both the Oklahoma Board of Nursing and the Accreditation Commision for Education in Nursing.
For more information, visit the OCCC Nursing Program website at www.occc.edu/health/nursing or call the Division of Health Proffesions office at (405) 682-7507.