Welcome to the second Friday Faculty Spotlight of September! This week, the spotlight is on Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing Assistant Professor Jollibyrd M. “Joe” Gusto, DrPH, MAN, RN, CMSRN, PCCN-K, who teaches at Scholar Plaza, Loudoun, in the Accelerated Second Degree Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
In his full Friday Faculty Spotlight Q&A, Dr. Gusto talks about his love of teaching, how his doctorate in public health influences his teaching style, and how kindness, joy, and understanding are at the heart of his work as an educator.
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When did you join Shenandoah, and what appealed to you about the university?
I was initially hired as an adjunct clinical instructor in 2012. The faculty members and staff were very welcoming and very accommodating. Everybody was willing to help. I was impressed (remember: first impressions last!). Fast forward 2018-2019, there was an opening for a full-time job and, at that time, I had already completed the academic requirements leading to earning my Doctor of Public Health degree. In addition to looking at SU’s website, I also learned about its high passing rate for NCLEX-RN. So, let us put this into an equation: accommodating staff plus high passing rate equals excellent place to work. I applied, and got hired in fall 2019.
What inspired you to become a nursing educator?
This is a very interesting and perplexing question. This question was also posed to me when I applied. I knew very well, too, that this would be asked so I tried to prepare for it. Nevertheless, the more I tried to prepare an “impressive” answer, the more I got lost. Eventually, I reflected upon it and the most honest answer is that I DO NOT KNOW. All I know is that I just love and enjoy teaching. Actually, this makes more sense – if one loves what he or she is doing, then he or she wakes up every day inspired, happy and excited.
While it is true that one might have been inspired by someone (a good teacher, an excellent nurse, etc.), at the end of the day, what counts most is inner and personal motivation.
How does teaching in an accelerated program differ from teaching in a traditional BSN program?
From the word “accelerated,” this program is more fast-paced. In addition, students in the accelerated program have previous degrees and are more likely to have broader life experiences. Thus, they may tend to be more serious in their studies and may need less supervision (this is just my thought and I am not sure if there are empirical or evidence-based studies out there). Of course, accelerated students do still need supervision. After all, they are still students.
What are your areas of research and why have you decided to study them?
Hospital readmission has always been a big issue for me. This is because readmission drives health care costs up, and more importantly, it negatively affects the quality of life of the affected individual and his or her loved ones. My doctoral study was on CHF (congestive heart failure) readmissions. As a former charge nurse and bedside nurse in a Progressive Care Unit, I admitted and readmitted patients with CHF. Interestingly, most of these patients live in the community. Thus, the possible factors of readmissions must be with the patient/person while he/she lives in the community. I thought that a study on readmission was timely and perfect for me as a bedside nurse pursuing a public health degree. The disease (example, CHF) is a medical condition, while readmission is a public health issue. I know both worlds. I just hope that public health and the hospital systems could collaborate better in controlling readmissions.
What drew you to getting a Doctor of Public Health degree?
I love public health! While in the Philippines (I came from the Philippines and migrated here in 2001 as a nurse), I had a chance to supervise nursing students both in the hospital and in the community. Together with my community health nursing students, I enjoyed conducting home visits, initiating community health assemblies, and coaching nursing students and community leaders in community organizing participatory action research (COPAR). I believe that the nursing profession and public health are very much complementary with each other, especially in disease prevention and health promotion, locally and internationally.
Does your public health expertise affect how you teach nursing? If your answer is yes, in what ways?
YES. Two things that come to my mind: the focus of public health and the philosophy of public health. The focus of public health, unlike hospital care, is more on disease prevention and health promotion – at the individual level and at the community level. In my Medical-Surgical Nursing class, I not only focus on the responsibilities of the nurse in the curative aspect but also in the preventative, promotive and rehabilitative aspects of care. In essence, the last three aspects of care are public health concerns.
On other hand, the application of the philosophy of public health could be seen in my teaching and classroom management. Public health is about consensus-building. In my class, there are instances when I include my students in decision-making. Sometimes, I let my students vote on certain class concerns.
Secondly, in public health, the patient or client is the group or community (although I always like to emphasize “the individual, the family, the group, and the community” as the whole patient). I see my class as a “group” or community. I believe each class or cohort is unique with different cultures and therefore may require a different approach. One size does not always fit all. In addition, while I talk with my students on a one-on-one basis, I make sure that the needs of the class as a group are heard and respected.
Lastly, public health, in its ideal sense, is about programs that are affordable, available, accessible, and acceptable to the recipients. I believe that our nursing program is very much comparable to other universities in the area. Plus, in nursing, the return-of-investment is very high. A lot of our nursing students in their last semester have jobs waiting for them already! All they need is to pass the NCLEX-RN. Plus, their entry-level pay is not bad. As a teacher, I try my best to make my lectures accessible and available to the students. I record my live lectures and allow students to record too so that they can go back and re-listen. PowerPoint slides are available ahead of time for the students to download. They can also ask any nursing question both in the classroom and outside the classroom, including clinical questions to me anytime.
Finally, my lectures and class discussions must be acceptable (research-based yet understandable) to the students (the recipients). I know that the information from our textbook is the bone, meat and skin of the lecture. Nevertheless, I still include in the discussions studies and enrichments from reputable websites like the CDC, NIH, and even hospital websites. I also try to anticipate their possible questions and look for the answers. One of the comments of the students was, “he is incredible at taking the materials from the textbook and distilling down to the most important, most accessible parts….I have often found that he anticipates questions before the lecture and reads studies….to be best prepared.”
What is your teaching philosophy, and how do you keep yourself and your students inspired?
I follow and apply the Madeleine Leininger Culture Care Theory. While this theory is about nursing, its tenets can be applied in teaching. This theory provides guidance in the provision of culturally congruent (nursing) care by considering the individual’s or group’s cultural values. Teaching should be the same. We teach diverse students, and as educators, we need to be cognizant of cultural differences.
How do you inspire your students?
Again, it goes back to my core: I love what I do and I wake up every day (well, maybe not all days of the year!) excited about going to work. Maybe this kind of attitude radiates. Some students tell me that I am always happy. One student also commented, “thank you for being such a wonderful human. Don’t ever change!” I hope my positive attitude inspires my students.
Secondly, I tell them about firsthand clinical experiences – both the good and not-so-good – and learn from the not-so-good ones. Students love these clinical experiences because these are highly relatable.
Lastly, I tell them that as students and eventually new nurses, they do not need to know everything and that nobody became an expert overnight. What is more important is that they are aware that they do not know everything and to strive to find the answers. By saying this, I am indirectly telling them not to be scared or be ashamed to ask for help.
What do you hope your students will take with them from their time working with you?
I strive to be a transformational teacher. I want my students to be confident and competent nurses. I always tell them that as human beings, we all need to endeavor to be kind to others. Being kind is preferred to being smart (although it is best to have both).
How do you spend your free time?
I go out and run, walk, and jog; I read novels.
What’s a little-known fact about you?
I love to take a nap (not at work, of course)!