Nurse who made the move to the U.S. finds passion in teaching

After 22 years at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center, Jan Kear has transitioned to teaching the next generation of nurses, including at GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Jan Kear loves nursing so much, she took some of the same courses twice.

The Grand Canyon University prelicensure nursing instructor heard her vocational calling back home in Manchester, England, after her aunt, who was almost full-term in her pregnancy, lost the baby.

Her aunt was devastated.

"I was very touched by the way the nurses took care of her … they were very kind to her, and I just thought, that’s what I want to do,” said Kear from the second floor of the Natural Sciences Building during National Nurses Month.

It's where a roomful of nursing students in purple scrubs are busy practicing everything from drawing medications to charting them, even though it's summertime and most students are on break (nursing never takes a break at GCU).

Kear worked at a children’s hospital in England as a state-enrolled nurse.

But then her husband came home with some news. The factory-trained Rolls-Royce technician told her, “We’re going to America!”

He had landed a job in the United States.

Moving here was something they both had wanted ever since they got married.

“In America, you can achieve a lot, and we’ve certainly done that,” she said. “We’ve been in the Phoenix area for 42 years now.”

Jan Kear oversees nursing student Brenna Sturgeon as she practices drawing medications in one of the GCU nursing classrooms.

She’s so patriotic, said Kear with a smile, that she delivered her son on the Fourth of July: “We always told him the fireworks were all for him.”

After her son, James, and daughter, Sally, graduated from high school, Kear knew it was time to return to nursing and started working for HonorHealth.

One of the conditions of her employment was to earn her bachelor’s degree. Kear learned that many of the core classes she took back in England to become a nurse didn’t transfer, so in some ways, she had to start her education over.

Unfazed, she enrolled at Scottsdale Community College, where she earned her associate degree, then found herself in a hybrid class at GCU, which partnered with HonorHealth. She worked on her degree with a group of other nurses she worked with and completed her bachelor’s degree in 2015.

“Every Thursday night, we met. It was great to meet the teachers. It was great to form a bond with the girls in class. We had some fabulous instructors,” said Kear.

That nursing school experience was so positive that she was inspired to become a nursing educator and guide the next generation of nurses.

“I’ve got a great passion for teaching these students,” said Kear, who's an instructor at both Scottsdale Community College and GCU. “I loved having a student with me when I was working at the hospital (for their clinicals). So I carried on,” earning her master’s degree from GCU in 2018 so she could take on more responsibilities at the hospital and also have the kind of credentials she wanted for teaching.

At GCU, Kear teaches in whatever capacity she’s needed.

“I say to the students, 'What do you need to focus on?'” If they say, ‘I need to practice starting an IV.’ I’ll say, ‘OK, let’s get the arms up.’ Or, ‘I need to do a full catheter.’ ‘OK, let’s get the mannequin out for that.’”

Brenna Sturgeon gets guidance with charting medications from nursing instructor Jan Kear.

And she is bringing her 22 years of experience at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center to the classroom.

Kear specializes in obstetrics and postpartum care and worked in the very busy couplet care department at the hospital, “looking after mom and baby,” she said, and was part of a team at HonorHealth that worked on improving recovery time for women who had C-sections during childbirth.

“We made some very strategic changes about getting those patients after a C-section not only prepared for surgery but also postpartum, telling them exactly when we were going to medicate them, when we were going to get them out of bed, how far we were going to walk them. … The expectation was that they’d be up and moving, and most of them were going home after 48 hours,” Kear said.

After earning her master’s degree, she also had the privilege of teaching Air Force nurses who rotate through HonorHealth’s obstetrics department.

And she was part of a team that developed two courses at GCU to help international nurses transition to the U.S. health system, something Kear knows firsthand.

What was important to her in developing those courses was making students aware of state boards and the compact nurses make before being issued a license, and she wanted to make sure the courses touched on the insurance system in the United States.

... We need to teach these nurses that nursing is not a silo. We need to help one another. We work in partnership with everybody.

Jan Kear, nursing instructor, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions

For example, she herself learned as a nurse how important it is to continually monitor infections after invasive procedures because insurance companies might not pay the bill if a patient becomes infected.

“Also important for international nurses is how to connect with others from your country of origin,” Kear said, and to continue to make those bonds.

It’s what she loves to do as a nursing instructor in those vital hands-on courses – to make those bonds with students and help them be amazing nurses.

It’s important for her, she said, to make sure students are learning procedure and the correct way to do things before they start their first jobs as nurses.

“And I think we need to teach these nurses that nursing is not a silo. We need to help one another. We work in partnership with everybody. We have dietitians, diabetic nurse educators, we’ve got to bring all of those people in and remember that it’s not just us taking care of that patient,” Kear said.

At the same time, “We have to remember we are with the patient the most, and we have to advocate for the patient,” just like Kear advocates for nursing education and makes sure the next generation of nurses is ready for what’s ahead.

Manager of Internal Communications Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at (602) 639-7901.

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