Q&A with Annette Hutcherson, MN, EdD, CNE

Q&A with Annette Hutcherson, MN, EdD, CNE

On What It Takes to Become a Nurse

Annette Hutcherson— also known as Dr. H— has been with Polk State College for 28 years, serving as the Nursing Program director since 2006.  She has seen a lot of students graduate into meaningful careers, and since National Nurses Week is this week, we asked for her unique perspective on what it takes to become a nurse. 


Central Florida Health News (CFHN): We know that nursing is a very demanding profession.  But how demanding is the educational process?

Annette Hutcherson: Very demanding.  This is going to be true for any health program.  There’s a lot of content, and in addition to classes there are clinicals, plus the outside study time required.  It is demanding.


CFHN: What kind of challenges do nursing students face that prepare them for real-world experiences?

Dr. H: They do have actual real-world experiences as students.  Each clinical course, they spend at least one day a week in a clinical environment, maybe a nursing home, maybe the hospital, but they’re actually going in with an instructor and are assigned patients to take care of.  We also have on-campus simulation activities where we create patient scenarios and they’re challenged to function and respond the way they would in the real world.


CFHN: What sort of resources are available to students who may be struggling with the program, or with personal situations?

Dr. H: The faculty and staff at PSC are very supportive of students.  They are available for extra help, for test review, that type of thing.  We also have a full-time tutor that is available to help students, by appointment, if they need help.  As far as personal problems, the faculty are usually available to students, and will talk to them and try to help them work out things.  The college also has an agreement with BayCare for more help, if students need them for referrals.  We also have a mental health counselor on campus one day a week.


CFHN: With approximately 300 students at any given time enrolled in the associate program, it must be quite competitive to get accepted.  What are some qualifications that can help a candidate stand out from the rest?

Dr. H: For admission, we use a formula based on their score on their admissions test and their GPA.  The higher the admissions test score, the higher the GPA, the more points they have.  We do have more students apply than we can accept, so the applicants are ranked according to this point system.


CFHN: In your opinion, what are some personality traits that make a person particularly well-suited to the nursing profession?

Dr. H: To be successful, there must be a sincere desire to help other people, to be caring; the attitude that it’s not just a job, it is a calling and something you really want to do.  It is demanding academically, so you do have to be academically strong.  It’s not just a matter of caring.  The demand of knowledge for nurses today is significant, so they have to possess the technical expertise, but they also have to master that caring personality to be successful.


CFHN: What changes do you often see take place in students over the course of their education?

Dr. H: For most of them, that growth— the ability to critically think, to make decisions, and being able to think and function.  They mature.  The light comes on, and they are able to apply that knowledge to practice.  The more they practice it, the better they get at it.


CFHN: What makes Polk State College an optimal choice for students looking to begin a career in nursing or take their experience to the next level through the baccalaureate program?

Dr. H: We do have a very strong program.  Our graduates consistently, since 1965, have outranked the nation and the state as far as the licensing pass rates, so they get a good education.  We have facilities and managers tell us they like the Polk grads.  They realize that they know what they’re doing, and they do well.  To maintain a job in nursing these days, you can get employed with the associate’s degree, but to stay employed in most of the facilities, at least in hospitals, it pretty much does require that someone go on for the baccalaureate degree.


Categories: Features, Health News