To some practitioners, once undergraduate and master’s degrees are completed, and a long, distinguished career as a nurse anesthetist has been achieved, returning to the higher education circuit, as a student, some 36 years later may seem arduous or even unnecessary—but not to Terry Wicks.
“There is a popular misconception that adult learners are challenged in some ways when they return to formal educational programs. My personal experience has been that the most important thing to do is to be sure that your family and your employer understand the time commitment required to be successful, and then have the self-discipline to carve out the time and do the work. It has to be a priority,” explained the Davenport native.
After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1981 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, Wicks worked in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at UIHC before returning to active duty and enrolling in the U.S. Army's nurse anesthesia program. Following the completion of this program, he worked in a variety of military health care facilities, including locations in Honolulu and Aurora, Colorado, before leaving the Army and eventually landing at a medical center in North Carolina, where he still works as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
Wicks returned to his alma mater in 2016 in pursuit of a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. He indicated that his desire to return to teaching nurse anesthesia students was a principal reason for pursuing this doctorate degree. Wicks successfully defended his DNP project in April, clearing the path to become Dr. Wicks in just a few short weeks.
“The University of Iowa's nursing and nurse anesthesia educational programs are recognized among the very best in the country,” he explained, adding that connections with College of Nursing faculty, including Dr. Michael Anderson, stepped up his pursuit for a doctorate degree. “When I spoke to Dr. Anderson about wanting to pursue a DNP and returning to teaching, he suggested I think about Iowa. Since I lived in North Carolina and the Iowa program was delivered online, it was a natural fit. As a die-hard Hawkeye alumnus, it didn't take much arm-twisting to get me to submit an application for admission.”
Wicks has been thoroughly impressed with UI’s DNP program throughout and has no doubts about how it will impact his professional outlook moving forward.
“I think you have to consider the three ways that the Iowa degree changes you professionally. First of all, the curriculum broadens your understanding of health care systems and health care policy, while increasing your ability to critically evaluate research evidence. Then, as a result, you become more able to identify changes that need to be made at the patient care level, in organizations, and in health care systems … and you have been provided the strategic frameworks and tools for effecting those changes. Finally, it changes the way you see your role as a professional and makes you more cognizant of the importance of sustaining your own evidence-based practice and encouraging it in others.”
For Wicks, academia has truly come full circle. “In any event, I want to finish my career in education,” he noted, which is a fitting scenario for a student, practitioner, and teacher, who never settled, and never stopped learning.
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