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Maureen Nuckols receives first RFC Legacy Award

Maureen Nuckols receives Legacy Award

Professor Maureen Nuckols (center) is presented with the first RFC Legacy Award by campus CEO Carla Malmquist (left) at the recent graduation pinning ceremony for nursing students.

Colorado Mountain College’s Roaring Fork Campus has established the new Legacy Award and Maureen Nuckols, retiring professor of nursing, is its first recipient.

The honoree’s plaque indicates thanks “for planting a seed that will grow and flourish.” It is given to a faculty or staff member who impacts a program, department, the college or community in their work or life that will be seen for many years.

Nuckols has taught for the college’s nursing program since its inception 11 years ago. Prior to that, she worked part-time to help develop the curriculum in preparation for the program’s roll-out.

Among her proudest achievements, she says, is that “I helped produce 11 years’ worth of graduate RNs.”

That adds up to 255 individuals, each of them a part of Nuckols’ legacy.

“She has influenced the lives of students, patients and colleagues to reach their highest potential,” explains Betty Bembenek, director of the nursing program. “She found mentors for students who needed them, and she supported new faculty when they were hired.”

Her legacy, Nuckols hopes, is that she’s shown students that they must be confident, compassionate and courageous as nurses.

“Caring is more than being kind,” she explains. It’s something she’s learned about nurses, not as a nurse or as a teacher, but as a cancer patient.

“I had seven hospitalizations this year,” Nuckols says. “Good nurses see the patient as a human being and look beyond the hospital gown. They realize who is in the hospital is just a snapshot of that person’s life. They are able to take a look at what their lives are like outside the hospital.”

Critical thinking and problem solving skills, she illustrates, are the essential allies of compassionate nursing. “The good nurse made a plan that recognized me as a unique person,” she says.

Nuckols also emphasized to her students that they will need a great deal of courage to be nurses. “Nurses carry such a huge responsibility for human life.”

In pursuit of their degree, Nuckols found it vital to convey encouragement to her students at every turn. She made it a practice to take a student aside after class to share with them something they did or said in class that showed growth. “Many students wrote me notes thanking me for that encouragement,” she says.

Her students have left their own kind of legacy to Maureen. She cites their perseverance and their fortitude. “On four or five occasions last year, students lost a significant person in their lives,” she reports, “and not one of them missed more than one day of their clinicals.”

Students were especially important to her in this last year. “They were my carrots, my reward,” Nuckols explains. “They gave me a gift and that was being able to walk into the room, not as a patient, but as a teacher.”

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Nuckols chaired the Admissions and Appeals committee, and has always been involved in reviewing scholarship applications.

Retiring wasn’t such an easy thing for her to do. Her original plan was to retire last year. “She stayed an additional year to see us through our accreditation,” says Bembenek. “She wanted to see the program be successful.”

And “retirement” is a pretty loose term for Nuckols. CMC students will see her back in class this fall when she teaches as an adjunct professor in the program. She continues to be passionate about helping students afford college, and she is organizing a fundraiser this fall to establish what will be another part of her legacy – a new scholarship for nursing students.