Smith ensures newest generation of nurses gets a good start
by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer
The need for new nurses is possibly greater than ever before – and, at Redlands Community College, those who want to answer that call have a champion, a mentor, a counselor, an instructor and a friend. They have Rose Marie Smith, RCC’s Dean of Nursing.
“Dean Smith is always there for us, always finds the time to discuss with us what we need to do, how we need to get where we want to go – she gives so much of herself to make sure we are ready, that we’re successful,” graduating senior Mikaela Meeks said. “She knows who we are as people, as students and as future nurses.”
Smith knows much of what those students go through each day – she and her faculty have lived it, and they know just how much it takes to make getting through nursing school, and a career after graduation from it, work.
“We really know the story of our students because we really care, and we’re dedicated to creating an individual program designed specifically to each of them,” the dean said. “We have to make sure they know, we have to set the foundation now, because they need to realize people’s lives will be in their hands.”
Smith has always been a nurse, but it wasn’t her first choice after graduating from El Reno High School and heading off to college. At first, Smith majored in music therapy, something that exposed her to disabled children and a world away from anything she’d ever known. It would change her life.
“I enjoyed my rotations at a long-term care facility for handicapped children so much, that I changed my major to nursing,” Smith said. “That was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my life pathway.”
Her chosen pathway has helped facilitate the journeys of thousands of students who would follow Smith into the nursing field over a career just entering its 33 year. It all began with that experience at the long-term care facility. From there, Smith would go on to earn both her bachelors of science in nursing degree in 1982 and a 1990 master of science in nursing degree from University of Oklahoma Health Science Center.
After her 1982 graduation, Smith began working on the medical-surgical floor of Baptist Medical Center. She enjoyed that job, but it would be in 1985 her life would change, and a favor would change not only Smith’s career trajectory, but also impact so many other lives down the line.
That favor was a job not far from her high school alma mater, where she was asked to become an instructor at then-El Reno Junior College.
“I always volunteered to preceptor new graduate nurses at Baptist hospital,” Smith said. “The director of nursing at El Reno Junior College knew I had a BSN and asked me to ‘help out’ for a year.
“I’ve been in education ever since,” she said.
As ERJC in 1991 became Redlands Community College, Smith’s career as a nursing educator began to soar. She became sophomore team leader in 1990, was promoted in 1994 as RCC’s assistant nursing director and became the school’s director of nursing in 1995.
It was in 2006 that Smith made a change, heading to Oklahoma Platt College as director of its RN program; she became associate head of sciences and nursing at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City in 2011.
But, less than a decade later, Smith returned home. Coming back to Redlands Community College, she was named Dean of Nursing and Allied Health in July 2015. Recently, Smith also took on the duties of the school’s interim chief academic officer.
The dean also serves on several advisory committees for practical and bachelor of science nursing programs at Redlands, as well as sitting on the Oklahoma Healthcare Workforce Center board, a position she’s held since 2010.
“These committees examine the ‘fit’ for graduates from their respective programs to articulate into our ADN (associate degree in nursing) program through an LPN-RN pathway, and for our Redlands graduates to articulation into an RN-BSN program,” Smith said. “The OHCWC looks at educational pathways and job placements for both nursing and allied health graduates for Oklahoma.”
Always moving forward, Smith said she loves working at Redlands because it’s a school with continual forward momentum, as well. What was not all that long ago a small rural community college now is a thriving school that boasts a well-rated nursing program. Most recently, Redlands partnered with Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s RN-BSN online program – which allows students to continue their nursing education at RCC tuition rates.
“We have one of the lowest tuition rates in the state, which is a huge benefit for our Redlands graduates,” the dean said. “Everything we’re doing is to make sure they have the best possible chance at the kind of career and success they want – after all, that’s why we’re here.”