Cara Morrill-Stoklosa, DNP, RN

Clinical Assistant Professor

Faculty headshot of Dr. Cara Morrill-StoklosaWho or what inspired you to enter the nursing profession?

I was primarily raised by a single father whose parents played a large role in shaping me into the woman I am today. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer when I was eight years old and passed shortly before I turned 16. For nearly half my life (at that time), I was secondhandedly exposed to several doctors, medications, cancer treatments and nurses/physicians who provided my grandmother care.

I was always interested in understanding why things worked, and it was no different when it came to health care. I would sit at my grandmother's dining room table and help her organize her pill boxes while she would explain what each medication did for her. I would attend chemotherapy sessions with her and take notes on how certain drugs worked and what side effects may be brought upon my loved one. I was very involved, and I loved understanding what was happening.

About a week before my grandmother passed away, she asked me to put her illness and what I learned from it to good use; it was at that time I decided I wanted to become a nurse.

Why did you choose to become a nurse educator?

I needed and wanted to become a nurse in memory of my grandmother—the woman who encouraged me in every arena of my life. However, once I became a nurse and was often awarded the honor of precepting future nurses, I realized how much I loved educating.

Knowing that I could be both a nurse and an educator was everything to me. I love being someone who helps people, and not just from a medical standpoint. I love helping new or up-and-coming nurses/health care providers see their potential and assist them in becoming more confident, educated and professional.

I'm a "helper" at heart and being both a nurse and professor has granted me the ability to "help" on multiple different levels.

How do you incorporate your professional experience into the courses you teach?

I've worked as an active medical-surgical nurse for nearly a decade. Many of the experiences I've had as a floor nurse can be utilized in my courses by the means of storytelling. I was hesitant at first to share some of my real-life patients' stories, but students seem to respond to those and have stated several times that my "read it, hear it, do it" method of educating has allowed them to apply some aspects of my personal experiences to their own clinical experiences.

Additionally, I share stories of mistakes I've made to help them understand that nurses and professors are not perfect—but that we learn from our mistakes and don't make the same mistakes twice.

My professional experience has allotted me the ability to relate course materials to real life ailments, procedures and policies, and to how I present information to students. Because I am still an active floor nurse, I am able to keep up with the ever-changing nursing world and prepare my students in real time for what they may experience while on clinical units.

What do you hope all your students gain from your classes?

I hope my students gain a strong understanding that nursing is more than checking boxes and going through the motions. I hope through my storytelling and means of educating that students realize that nurses are often more than just a "caretaker" during their 8- or 12-hour shifts. To many patients, nurses quickly become therapists, hands to hold, ears to listen, shoulders to cry/lean on, and even family.

I also hope that students gain confidence, excitement and passion toward the field of nursing by hearing how much professors truly enjoyed taking care of others and the impact such care can have on one's life—both those individuals laying in the beds and those standing over them.