The instructor of Colorado Northwestern Community College's nursing program has been nominated for a prestigious nursing award.
Marilyn Hehr is teaching the inaugural class of nursing students at CNCC's Craig campus. Recently, she received a letter informing her that she had been nominated for the Nightingale Award, which recognizes nurses who exemplify the caring philosophy and practice of the award's 19th century namesake, Florence Nightingale.
Hehr's supervisor, the head of CNCC's nursing program, Marilyn Bouldin, authored the nomination letter.
"On the back page, all 18 of my students had signed it," Hehr said. "I just started to cry."
Dr. Thomas Told, a physician who worked with Hehr, also wrote a letter of recommendation. So did Dean Hollenbeck, CNCC's vice president, along with a former coworker, Judith Hiester, as well as Hehr's husband, Les.
Bouldin said she nominated Hehr because of her career accomplishments and her exhaustive work putting together the first year of CNCC's nursing program.
She's helped the 18 students succeed during the rigorous, full-time course, without encountering any dropouts, Bouldin said.
"It's been really wonderful how they've stuck together," Hehr said.
Hehr began last summer building the program with Bouldin. The two had to develop a class schedule and lesson plan, write a student handbook and make sure all the necessary props and supplies were on hand. Hehr worked to create a lesson plan that would provide a quality nursing education for the 18 nursing hopefuls, Bouldin said.
Hehr said teaching the course has been a highlight of her career, although she said she's never worked harder in her life.
"As the first-year instructor, one has to read all the books ones self just to stay one week ahead of the students and figure out how to present the material to them," Hehr said.
This week, she's in the middle of the lengthy process of preparing midterm grades.
As part of her nomination for the Nightingale Award, Hehr had to prepare a personal essay to accompany her resume and the numerous letters of recommendation.
One question for the essay asks nominees to describe their knowledge of "caring skills."
Hehr's answer began, "After 37 years of nursing, how does one go about describing professional skills. I'll try."
She went on to write about her years in maternity nursing, and her work in an intensive care unit. She spent time teaching health careers in a North Dakota high school. Before she took the instructor position at CNCC, Hehr was a tobacco control coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
"I was involved in getting a youth tobacco ordinance passed for our town," Hehr said.
Hehr also spoke about her philosophy of caring, which she said she's trying to impress upon her students.
As the "team concept" becomes a growing part of the nursing profession, Hehr said she taught her students first to care for each other.
"That's one thing we worked on right from the beginning," Hehr said.
The nominees for the award will be recognized at a banquet in Grand Junction on March 26. The regional event will pick finalists for the statewide competition.
The 19th Annual Colorado Nightingale Awards Ceremony will announce the winner in Denver on May 8.
Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.