My Specialty

Clinical Nurse Educator, Michelle McKoy, Foothill Regional Medical Center

Educating the staff while mentoring nursing students

Please tell us about the trajectory of your nursing career.

I’ve always known that I wanted to become a nurse, but the initial arc of my career was impacted by certain setbacks. I migrated to this country from Belize in the second year of my nursing studies. I had to restart my entire education because the community college I enrolled in would not accept any of my previous nursing school credits.

At the beginning of my nursing career, I chose not to advance my education further so that I could spend quality time with my two children and focus on developing my clinical skills.

However, I’ve always felt very strongly that I had to define who I am within the context of my nursing career, so I went back to school to earn my BSN. After finishing that degree, I took a three-year break from my studies, working on a medical/surgical telemetry unit. I was also a preceptor for nursing students on their eight-week senior rotation.

Around that time, my director of nursing informed me that there was an opening in the ICU and urged me to take a course in critical care. I was apprehensive, but was ultimately successful and very much enjoyed working as a critical care nurse.

What led you to become a CNE?

As I mentioned earlier, I was a preceptor for senior nursing students. I enjoyed that process so much that I decided I wanted to nurture future nurses and strengthen the quality of care they provide to patients, patients’ families and our community. I have both personal and professional knowledge from my career to share with future nursing generations. Learning the theory aspects was quite strenuous. Having a strong support system helped, but being a single mom and paying my way for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees was honestly tough.

I became a CNE eight months ago. I choose to work in the hospital because I can still have some direct contact with patients while I help to improve our nurses’ educational environment.

As a CNE, what are your responsibilities?

I’m responsible for care coordination and ensuring the safety of patients and staff by facilitating and conducting in-service training sessions for our nurses. I also organize our monthly nurse orientations and EMR trainings. Beyond that, I oversee our nurse residency program and coordinate with other department heads for the hospital’s annual skills day.

What do your days look like? Whom do you interact with and what do you spend most of your time doing?

My typical day is usually eight hours rather than the RN’s customary 12-hour shift. I participate in the daily morning huddle and then round on patients. I also do a daily suicide screening audit for all ER patients as well as all patients who are admitted to an inpatient unit.

Hiring Now

Since we have nursing students practicing here at Foothill Regional Medical Center (FRMC), I have the responsibility of keeping them abreast of any changes they should be aware of. We’re fortunate to use the HealthStream EMR. Since it’s a recent addition to our facility, I participate in weekly webinars on how to master the system.

As an educator, I assign nurses to educational classes based on their director of nursing’s discretion. I still have some interaction with patients, but the majority of my time is spent with the nursing staff.

Do you only educate nurses and patients, or do you also educate physicians and other staff?

I coordinate a great deal with other department heads, but I mostly focus on the nurses. If we’ve implemented new practices that affect the entire hospital, I get on board and assist with the educational process in whatever manner would be most helpful to move the initiative along.

In my position, I do not provide any direct patient or family education

What about your work inspires you and gets you out of bed every morning?

I’m really motivated about patient safety. Our hospital recently implemented Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) screenings, so I had the opportunity to work with our sister hospitals to educate all nurses within our organization on this screening tool. I also conducted in-service trainings for every nurse.  It’s easy to be passionate about something so meaningful, but it’s especially important to me because it’s the first big project I’ve tackled as a CNE here at Foothill Regional Medical Center.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and has maintained the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at www.nursekeith.com.


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