As the first full-time faculty member in Palm Beach Atlantic University's School of Nursing, Dr. Patrick Heyman knows the importance of planning.
Dr. Heyman and his colleague designed the original curriculum for the nursing program, plus the layout of the building. From the lesson plan to the floor plan, they made sure everything was perfect.
"It was difficult work, but the payoff was great," Dr. Heyman said. "When we got our first class of nursing students in, we knew we were successful."
Dr. Heyman learned his work ethic from his parents, who worked as missionaries from the time he was 6 years old. His family traveled to Liberia, where they stayed for two and a half years until political unrest in the country forced them to move.
"We got there three months after the coup [during the civil war]," Dr. Heyman said. "My parents thought it was getting too unsafe. It turned out that, after we left, some of our friends who stayed there ended up having to flee their houses in the middle of the night."
After Liberia, the Heymans moved to Costa Rica for a year to learn Spanish, then to Uruguay, where they stayed for six and a half years.
Once back in the U.S., Dr. Heyman attended the Air Force Academy for two years before deciding it wasn't his passion.
"Some friends were going to PBA, so I thought, 'Why not?' It was perfect timing," Dr. Heyman said.
Dr. Heyman graduated from PBA with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a plan to study exercise physiology at the University of Florida. However, Dr. Heyman began to reconsider his choice when he realized the job market for that major was slim.
"One of the first things I thought after that was, 'Why don't I study nursing?'" Dr. Heyman said.
UF accepted him for its bachelor's in nursing program; he went on to obtain his master's and doctorate there as well.
Throughout his time at UF, Dr. Heyman picked up odd jobs to support himself, including teaching ballroom dancing in Gainesville for about three years. It was here he met his wife, Jen. The Heymans have one son, Logan Matthew.
He also worked as a nurse practitioner in a private practice while completing his doctorate in nursing. This gave him the hands-on experience needed to apply his knowledge in a clinical setting.
The idea of clinical work is of importance to Dr. Heyman. He recommends students take summer nursing internships.
"We see someone who has done an internship over the summer and say, 'This is a person who's serious,'" Dr. Heyman said.
Dr. Heyman hopes to continue improving the nursing program over the next few years. The most important thing right now, he said, is to continue having a high percentage of board passing scores and equipping students for the workplace.
The integration of technology into the classroom is a vital step for the School of Nursing, Dr. Heyman said.
He and other professors transformed their lesson plans to include downloadable lectures to which students listen on iPods and other MP3 players. This, he said, not only frees up his class time to focus more on practice and applications, it also enables students to return to the lectures to refresh.
"We've made the School of Nursing a leader in promoting technology in learning," Dr. Heyman said. "By giving students the technology to learn outside the classroom, we send better-qualified graduates out into the field."
Along with the lectures, students now download videos for labs and take certain tests online. Nursing students also are required to have personal digital assistants which contain certain nursing resources.
"Most of the School of Nursing's students are younger and expect to use technology within courses," Dr. Heyman said. "Hospitals are using more informatics, and the School of Nursing uses technology both to enhance teaching-learning and to prepare graduates for health care technology."
Dr. Heyman said he enjoys the connection made when students begin to integrate everything they learn in the classroom with their field training. It's something his work as a nurse practitioner taught him to appreciate.
"I love seeing students make 'Ah ha!' moments," Dr. Heyman said.