By Jonathan Higuera
During Linda Shanta’s 42-year career as a nurse, she’s had multiple roles and jobs. From her start as a nurse’s aide while in high school to her current role as associate dean of Creighton University’s Nursing Program in Phoenix, she’s found ways to pursue her passion — moving the nursing profession forward through education and support.
“Nurses can go a lot of places in health care,” she said. “And we need to help them feel valued and supported as they make transitions in their career.”
A glance through her curriculum vitae shows that she’s put in some serious effort and thought to accomplish these goals. Her many roles include serving as a faculty member and dean, director, grant writer, graduate advisor, consultant and bedside nurse. She spent 11 years at the North Dakota Board of Nursing, ending her tenure there as associate director of education.
Most recently, she’s been moving full throttle at Creighton, a position she started in June 2019. The past several months have been particularly demanding as the nursing faculty has adjusted the one-year accelerated nursing program quickly in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
That has meant transitioning the curriculum to an online only system, rethinking how students can meet their clinical requirements as hospital partners have curtailed student clinical training, and dealing with a host of other details that have required team-wide collaboration, innovation and support.
“It’s been challenging on all our faculty and Creighton leaders and students,” she said. “It’s a domino effect. In leadership, we’re trying to keep resources managed.”
She readily admits it’s been one of the most intense times of her career. But it’s also turning out to be among the most gratifying. “When you see how nursing faculty come together to rally around the students, I can’t even begin to express my admiration and inspiration from what I’ve seen.”
As a nurse educator, she’s a strong proponent that nurses should have a bachelor’s degree as an entry point into the profession. “I’m extremely happy that health care facilities are recognizing the value of nurses with a bachelor’s degree. It is a highly intellectual profession.”
Although it’s been years since she was a bedside nurse, the South Dakota native says her approach to nursing is the one she asks her students to embrace. “I want our students to always be thinking about the person in the bed, or in the community, or wherever we’re delivering care,” Shanta said.
She says nursing may not be for everyone if they are not prepared to make a commitment to building relationships and embracing learning. “It all comes down to who you are personally because nurses are in a relationship with the persons for whom they are caring. I’m strongly a relational person. Everything I do is about seeking relationship with others.”
Her advice to those considering the field is to discard any notions based on TV’s portrayal of nurses. “Getting to be a nurse is hard work, with a lot more intellectual demands than people realize.”
One aspect of her current position that she enjoys has been Creighton’s commitment to nurse faculty development. “It’s exactly what I have been advocating for since I was principal investigator to a study on this topic funded by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.”
Leading a faculty of eight, she looks forward to seeing Creighton’s nursing programs flourish in Phoenix.
“I feel so blessed to have a career that I’ve enjoyed for so long,” Shanta said.