NISOD award-winning nursing instructor earned degree and kept going
LIBERAL, Kan. — Seward County Community College nursing instructor Chynessa Myers did not expect to earn a master’s degree and teach at an institute of higher learning. In fact, she did not expect to attend college at all — until she moved from a small, rural community in Canada to Meade, Kan. Meade itself is a small, rural community, yet what then-sixth-grade Myers discovered was a different set of expectations.
“Where I came from, growing up in the way I did, everybody expects to go to work after finishing high school; it’s just the culture,” she said. “When I got to Kansas, my classmates were talking about the year they would graduate, and what college they wanted to attend. It was a whole new way of thinking.”
In her role at SCCC, Myers aims to amplify that “aha” moment in the lives of her nursing students. It’s just one reason she earned a 2021 Excellence Award from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development..
“Ms. Myers continually evaluates her teaching methods with student success,” said Dean of Allied Health Dr. Suzanne Campbell. “She develops instructional methods that are implemented and assessed to determine the efficacy. An example of this list he large increase in level I nursing student time int he simulation center before placement in a clinical facility with patient care … students are better prepared in their head-to-toe patient assessment and critical thinking skills.”
Well-grounded nursing students gain confidence, and that is key; Myers understands this through a personal lens.
“Growing up as a kid, I was really OCD, afraid of germs — terrified,” she recalled. “I really had to learn to work through that. Becoming a nurse has challenged all those fears.” Yet Myers knew a career in health care was her goal from her teen years.
“In high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I took a CNA class, and I loved it,” she said. “I knew this was my thing.”
Embarking on her college journey presented a few hurdles. As a first-generation student, she had to navigate the unknown.
“My parents didn’t know what a (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) FAFSA was,” she said. “There was this feeling of, ‘I think I can do this, but whoa, how do you do it?’” Myers made her way to Wichita State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“It’s always a nice story to share with my students now, to encourage them. They have their moments when they feel the stress, and question their ability to make it through. I can tell them I understand, and challenge them, ‘Why is this not for you? You can do it!’ And it might surprise them because of my race and ethnicity — but I do identify with that struggle. I tell them, ‘think of what you’re trying to accomplish, think how far you can go!’”
Myers’ plan to stay in the city and work at a large hospital changed when she met and married a farm boy “and so I started my career at Meade District Hospital,” she said. After a few years serving patients, Myers was ready for something different, a bigger challenge.
“I was interested in learning and getting a master’s degree, and in a way I needed a reason.” Myers came on board at SCCC at the same time she enrolled in a master’s degree program through Clarkson College of Nebraska.
Campbell praised her commitment to learning and teaching simultaneously.
“The level of dedication and the timeline in which she completed this is commendable,” the dean wrote. “It is difficult to make the transition from the clinical setting as a healthcare provider to higher education. Often the first few years are spent learning the processes and procedures … Chynessa has experienced positive exponential growth both as a faculty member and an individual who successfully balanced those duties.”
Moreover, Myers did so at a time of unique pressure and change for all healthcare professionals.
“Nursing has changed so much in the last year with COVID happening, and that impacted our students,” she said.
In a region of the United States often labeled a hot zone for virus transmission rates, arranging clinical work was challenging. Over time, students were permitted to work at local sites, where they navigated learning while wearing Personal Protective Equipment in high-stress situations. Myers was unfazed by those moments of panic.
“Strong people create easy times, but hard times create strong people — that’s something I’ve heard said in the farm community, and it is true here,” she said. “The pandemic is uncontrollable, and we’re being forced to grow, to accommodate. We’re going to see some phenomenal grown-ups come out of this. Just seeing the students so committed to what they want, what they are doing is so powerful.”
As the SCCC nursing program tackled the challenges of online delivery due to pandemic restrictions, followed by a curriculum review and transition to preparing students for a new exam model, Myers pushed for changes.
“We want this to be the best program. Keeping it the same wasn’t going to be beneficial. Between COVID and technology changes and developments in the profession, we had to step things up, and I’m so proud and excited about how we’ve done that,” she said.
Looking back on her initial motivation to find a challenge and grow in her knowledge, Myers said work as an instructor has not disappointed her.
“I’m never, ever bored. I’ve appreciated the difficulty of getting everything done and presented to students, seeing them get it, and then hearing them process their knowledge. They’ll go to the clinical site, come back to talk to me and say, ‘I was so nurse-y today, It was so cool.’ Seeing their eyes light up when they talk about how it was to care for people in real life — I love that,” she said.
As graduation nears and new cohorts of nursing I and II students prepare to enter the workforce, Myers is savoring the pride she feels in her students’ success. Following the virtual/online conference sponsored by NISOD, she will hit the road with her husband and his harvest crew, and their infant son.
“I tag along, do a lot of the cooking, and enjoy doing something completely different for a couple months,” she said. “We’ll travel from southern Oklahoma up to Wolf Point, Montana cutting wheat.”
Once fall arrives, Myers will be back in the classroom, preparing new nurses to take up the profession that she claimed as a teen. If her students falter in their view of what is achievable, she is ready to share her story, and encourage them to keep striving.