When Humana’s Senior Vice President of Nursing Kathy Mershon wanted to start a nursing college in the Tampa Bay area in 1989, she called on Sharon A. Roberts to lead the charge. More than 50 years after beginning a nursing career that has taken her around the world, Roberts remembers where the initial spark was ignited.
From an early age, Roberts wanted to become a nurse.
“I just wanted to help people and take care of them,” Roberts said. “My grandfather’s death inspired my goal to become a nurse, and I was in sixth grade at the time. I never changed my mind.”
That drive led her to enlist in the Army Nurse Corps, and in 1968, she passed her board exams and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. A few months later, on Christmas Day, she received her first assignment: Vietnam. “I wasn’t even out of nursing school a full year, and I learned so much,” Roberts said. “If you didn’t appreciate the sanctity of life before, you sure learned it over there.”
Roberts spent a year in Vietnam and Germany for two years, where she was the head nurse of a surgical nursing unit. In April 1972, she was discharged from the Army and continued on her nursing education journey to Nurse Practitioner.
While working in St. Petersburg some years later, Roberts received a phone call from Mershon, whom she had met in the mid-1980s and had an ambitious assignment in mind: open a nursing college in Tampa Bay. Roberts became the founding dean of the Tampa Bay campus.
“For the first month, our students were in a medical office building at Humana Hospital Sun Bay. And in that medical office building, there was a conference room we used because we only had one class while we were identifying a larger location for the school,” Roberts recalled.
What was then the Humana Health Institutes Tampa Bay eventually moved into a 6,500-square-foot building. Over the years, the Tampa Bay campus has expanded into a state-of-the-art facility with over 90,000 square feet.
“It was just exciting to be doing something new because there were no private schools for nursing in the area, ” Roberts said. “It was also fun writing the curriculum, and it was a big learning experience for me.”
Roberts said her most significant contribution to the Tampa Bay campus was launching the simulation labs in 2005. She wanted interactive clinical environments where students could get a glimpse of what it was like to work in a hospital with patients.
The campus started with two simulation labs, “and now they’ve got a simulation hospital. That’s what we were moving toward. Galen’s leadership is really on top of all the available educational technologies,” she added.
In 2013, Roberts retired as dean of the Tampa Bay campus. Five years later, the Tampa Bay campus unveiled the Sharon A. Roberts Library in honor of the career and legacy of its founding dean. She now looks back at that career with profound joy.
“From a professional and personal standpoint, I’m proud of many things I have done, but the two that I am most proud of are my service in the Army Nurse Corps and opening the Galen Tampa Bay campus,” she said.
Roberts also shared advice to students who are interested in enrolling in one of Galen’s nursing programs.
“Go visit the school, take a tour, and talk to students,” she said. “When it comes to this profession, you’re taking care of people. It’s not about a procedure. It’s not about giving an injection. It’s not about giving pills. It’s about caring for that human being who’s before you. It’s compassion and understanding of the human condition and all who care about them.”
In honor of November’s celebration of National Native American Heritage Month, we salute the rich contributions of Native American nurses who opened doors for the many nurses who have followed in their footsteps.
One of those trailblazers was Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail, RN (1903-1981), who was an accomplished registered nurse and a tireless advocate for better healthcare for Native people throughout the 20th century. She became the first Native American nurse to be inducted into the American Nursing Association’s prestigious Hall of Fame in 2002.
Born on the Crow Agency reservation in Montana, Yellowtail was an activist who fought to transform healthcare for native populations. After graduating from Boston City Hospital School of Nursing in 1923, she returned to the reservation to work in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Hospital. While working at the hospital from 1929 to 1931, she observed discrimination against Native American patients, including the non-consensual sterilization of Crow women. Outraged, she spent the next 30 years fighting to end abuses in the Native American healthcare system.
In 1962, Yellowtail received the President’s Award for Outstanding Nursing Health Care. She later joined several state health advisory boards, leading to her appointment to President Richard Nixon’s Council on Native Health, Education, and Welfare in the 1970s. The appointments gave her a national platform advocating for the health needs of her people.
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Growing up, other people would say, “I want to be a ballerina, I want to be a movie star, I want to play sports,” and I always wanted to be a nurse, and so I made that happen. My name is Carrissa Striegel. I have completed the LPN program at Galen, the ADN program, the RN to BSN online. And I will be starting my MSN soon.
Why was flexibility important to you?
I was able to work full-time and still go to school full-time, and I have two children. And as my kids are getting older, they’re becoming involved in sports and things like that. I didn’t want to have to miss out on that. So being in this online program, it allowed me to be there for cheer competitions and basketball banquets. I was able to still go to all those things, but still pursue my goal of attaining my BSN. So that was the, like, key point for me to pick this program.
What else really stood out to you?
The class outline, they give it to you in the very beginning, so you know what classes you’re going to take. You have choices to take some electives, too, so I loved that. I love the instructors, though. I love the staff at Galen.
Was it easy to fit the classes into your schedule?
You can log in whenever you want. It can be midnight, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the morning. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re active in your discussions, and you’re doing whatever your assignment is for the week.
What has Galen meant to you?
If someone asks me, what school should they go to for nursing, hands down, I would say, “Galen.” I have defeated so many odds in my life, because of Galen, because of the opportunities that they were able to give me. For that, I will be forever grateful and thankful to them.
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If someone asked me if they should become a nurse, I would tell them ‘yes.’ It’s the most rewarding job that you can have and if they ask where they should go, I would recommend Galen. My name is Kayla Huff. I’ve gotten my LPN, my ADN, and my BSN from Galen.
Why was a BSN important to you?
I decided to go for my BSN because that was the next step in furthering my education to get to my end goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.
Why choose Galen’s Online RN to BSN Program?
I chose Galen’s online BSN program because it gave me the ability to be a full-time mom and to be a full-time nurse. I was able to put my daughter to bed and then stay up and do my homework, and it just gave me the flexibility I needed.
How did you keep in touch with your teachers?
I communicated with the teachers through the online program, by email. I’ve had teachers FaceTime me to go over topics that I didn’t understand. They would do a web conference with the whole class. Nursing is challenging.
Did you feel prepared?
You never know what each day is going to be. It’s never the same and Galen gave me that confidence that I knew what I was doing, and I could conquer any situation.
What does your family think?
This is actually graduation — with my BSN. This is my daughter, and she wants to be a nurse when she grows up. She’s like, “I’m going to be just like you, mommy.”
Galen College of Nursing employees might immediately recognize Thomas Dwyer’s voice as the narrator of the New Employee Orientation presentation. Affectionately known as the resident historian, Dwyer has had many roles that have made an indelible impact at the College.
Over his 29-year career, Dwyer has formally served as Controller, Vice President of Administration, and Vice President of Enrollment Management. In his current role as Vice President of Finance, Dwyer provides oversight of the accounting and financial matters for the College. Main administration campus employees may recognize him as the guy who always takes the stairs from the parking garage all the way to the fourth floor. But his most important role may be as an informal advisor to many staff and faculty, who’ve used his vast knowledge to provide better service to the College’s students.
Education has always been a priceless asset to him. In fact, immediately after graduating with a degree in accounting from the University of Kentucky, he started working for Jostens Education. The company had 30 business schools around the country, and he began learning the ropes about the development of school operations.
When Tri-State Driver Training wanted to build a truck driving school in Dallas, Texas, Dwyer was recruited to get the program in gear.
“I would leave on Monday and come back on Thursday night, working 10 to 12 hours a day to get the school up and running, while I was learning their system in Ohio so that I could implement it in Texas,” he said. “We had to hire and train everybody, which meant starting the initial departments for the payroll, human resources, accounting, financial aid, and the registrar’s office.”
During this same timeframe, he learned from a friend who worked at Humana that the health care provider was starting a school. Dwyer was happy to advise his friend about his experience in education.
Several years later, Humana needed to hire someone to help manage their three schools in Louisville, Tampa Bay, and San Antonio, and Dwyer came with high recommendations. However, the meeting wasn’t anything like he expected.
“It was the strangest interview I think I’ve ever had. I was told, ‘We need you to respond to an inquiry from the Department of Education.’ So, I sat down in front of a computer and typed my responses. Afterward, they sent it over to the legal department and then to the Department of Education. Then, we went to lunch,” he recalled. “After lunch, I asked, ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ and they responded, ‘Well, you’re already in.’”
After spending five years of traveling for Tri-State Driver Training, the Kentuckian was happy to return home to Louisville in 1991. Dwyer was the sole accountant who consulted with one of the founders, Kathy Mershon on a weekly basis to discuss school operations. His background was essential to campus leadership to establish a strong foundation, and he has provided his signature calm, practical advice to countless employees who want to make a difference in the lives of students and the people they work with.
Dwyer said coming to Humana Health Institutes was a nice fit. He found himself in familiar territory as he would travel to all three schools to hire and train administrators and employees.
He has been pleased with Galen’s expansion over the years and continues to see a promising future for students and the College. “Learning the College’s history is valuable for our employees to understand so that we can continuously improve the student experience by building upon the knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years. It continues to set us up for success.”
“In the next five years, I see us opening up new campuses and taking advantage of all the pathways that we’ve built over the years,” he said. “We started with one program, and now you can go all the way to your master’s degree at Galen. We’ve certainly come a long way.”
Analisa Campomanes-Bueno’s family wanted her to become a teacher. A native of the Philippines and one of a long line of teachers on her mother’s side, Campomanes-Bueno respected her family’s traditions, so she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and taught at an elementary school in the Philippines for two years.
In 1996, she moved to Tampa Bay, Florida, got married, and resumed teaching, but she grew disenchanted with her career and took steps to pursue a lifelong goal: nursing.
“Teaching was just so different, and I think I had culture shock,” said Campomanes-Bueno. “I really wanted to become a nurse ever since I was a little kid, but I had to do what my family wanted.”
Eventually, she worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) while finishing up her Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) at St. Petersburg College.
While Campomanes-Bueno began working at Largo Medical Hospital, she discovered that she was eager to lend a helping hand to new nurses. Eventually, she became a nurse educator at the hospital.
“More than anything, I want to help the nursing students become great nurses, which is how I came into academia,” she said. “It’s a noble job because we are really helping to change lives.”
Campomanes-Bueno became interested in Galen College of Nursing after a co-worker began teaching at the Tampa Bay campus. She joined her co-worker as a member of the faculty as a clinical instructor, teaching students in the Practical Nursing (PN) program. As an instructor, Campomanes-Bueno would often share her experience with students.
“Being a PN first is a good thing because it helped me become a great RN,” she said. “Becoming a PN gives you a great foundation, and it helps students who want to continue to learn and become RN’s or BSN’s.”
Today, Campomanes-Bueno DNP, MSN, RN is Director of Simulation and Clinical Learning Lab, and she is inspired by seeing Galen students graduate from the PN program.
“When they first started, they didn’t even know how to raise a bed! But then to see them at the end of the program, walking with confidence, it’s like, “Oh, wow, that’s the student I knew when they first started the PN program. Now, they’re so proud walking across that stage,’” she said. “It’s a great experience to see them succeed.”
Campomanes-Bueno credits a variety of resources that help PN students fulfill their goals. At the top of the list are the faculty who play an integral role in their nursing education.
“They’re not here just to teach and go home,” she said. “Our PN faculty are very nurturing. They are dedicated to helping students grow and thrive as nurses.”
If you need an example of someone who has been dedicated to Galen College of Nursing, you will not have to look any further than Louisville native Ruth Malone. She has been a student, clinical instructor and director of clinical education at the Louisville campus.
But nursing wasn’t Malone’s first career. She spent several years working in the accounting department at the behavioral health facility Seven Counties Services in Louisville. Her connections with doctors and patients at the facility inspired her to pursue her ultimate goal, but there was one thing that stood in her way.
“I’d always wanted to work in nursing because I come from a family of nurses, but I didn’t want to take the science classes,” she said, laughing. “But when I would get the opportunity to talk to the patients, several of the psychiatrists would say, ‘You really do well with building a rapport with our patients. Have you ever thought about nursing?’ And I thought, ‘Well actually, I had thought about it.’”
She decided to enroll in nursing classes at Galen. When Malone participated in her study groups, her peers pointed out that she had the ability to explain their class assignments in great detail. In 2003, she completed the Practical Nursing program, then graduated from the LPN to ADN Bridge program three years later.
One of her favorite memories was being honored for an Outstanding ADN Student award. The recipient is recommended for the award by faculty and students. Malone said Galen’s hands-on clinical learning labs were invaluable to her career in nursing education.
“Galen instilled in me the necessity of being prepared. It wasn’t just about doing the minimum. You want to be able to do more,” she said. “As a student, I thought, ‘There are all these clinical hours, why do we have to do all of this?’ But then when I graduated and started working, I was prepared at a level that perhaps others weren’t and had graduated with the same degree.”
Malone eventually returned to the College as a clinical instructor and then was promoted to director of clinical education for four years.
Today, Malone is the Clinical Education Specialist for Behavioral Health at HCA Healthcare Far West Division in Henderson, Nevada. She is responsible for the behavioral health education at eight hospitals, three in Las Vegas and five in Southern California. Malone’s role includes conducting research on evidence-based practice to help nurses improve patient outcomes.
“I love that I have the opportunity to empower nurses,” she said. “It’s like an educator’s dream.”
Malone is happy she decided to take those science classes and encourages Galen students to be open-minded about their goals in nursing.
“Nursing is phenomenal. There are so many different avenues you can take. There’s really no limit to what you can do. You also must have a passion because I believe that nursing is a calling,” she said. “You’re going to school to prepare yourself to take care of somebody that you’ve never met. You’ve got to really want to help make a difference in someone’s life.”
Anthony Moore, MSN-Ed, RN, sought careers he believed would help people. He has been a U.S. Army soldier, a police dispatcher, and a telephone cable splicer. But it wasn’t until he began teaching biology at a nonprofit museum that he realized he was getting closer to his passion for improving people’s lives. Moore decided he wanted to do even more.
“I became a nurse so that I can teach nursing,” the North Carolina native said. “When I visited Galen, I asked faculty what it was like to teach there because I wanted to attend and teach at the same school. Galen has the best combination of faculty dedication and quality of life for its employees. Both were important to me.”
“I like to describe myself as a study coach,” he said. “We have a team of five people in Tampa, and we each offer a different presentation of content because not everybody gets information the same way. I literally teach people how to take notes and study.”
Moore advises his students to use different techniques on how to use their time wisely for their studies.
“I usually recommend that they record the 10 things they need to memorize. While they are driving to school, they can listen to it over and over again,” he said. “Time management is important when you’re in nursing school, so I try to get them in that habit early in their program.”
As an academic success liaison, Moore advises students to critically assess themselves and ask questions about their strengths and weaknesses. “Let’s stop working on things you already know and instead let’s work on things you need to work on,” he said.
Not only does Moore coach students, but he also teaches mental health and fundamental courses. As a Galen alum, teacher, and academic success liaison, he brings a unique perspective to students in the PN program. While he was a student, Moore was inspired by former Galen professor Dr. Felix Greco. Now, he models his teaching style after him.
“Before Dr. Greco said anything, he would clap his hands really loud and say, ‘Good morning!’ It was like a breath of fresh air instead of someone just coming in and showing us a PowerPoint,” he said. “He had such energy in the way he approached teaching.”
Moore is determined to return that same type of enthusiasm to his students. He often advises PN students to have an open mind and explore various career opportunities.
“As an LPN, you can work at home health, private duty, become a traveling nurse and visit foreign countries, work in doctor’s offices and rehab,” he said.
He also mentioned that government facilities such as elementary schools, Veterans Affairs Administration, and prison systems all provide job security for LPNs.
Galen’s PN students are well-equipped for a variety of careers thanks to the faculty’s unending support, Moore said. “I have never been anywhere where the faculty cared more about the students succeeding and I can speak from both sides of the coin,” he said.
Lorraine Mann, MSN-Ed, MHA, RN, didn’t take a traditional route toward a career in nursing. In fact, she spent several years in banking. But, instead of remaining behind a desk, the Massachusetts native’s ultimate goal was to make a difference in the lives of patients. After a decade, Mann began working in healthcare as a dialysis technician. Three years later, she enrolled in a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program.
Once Mann completed her LPN program, she was promoted to a charge nurse at the dialysis center. She eventually moved from dialysis to a physician’s office and enrolled in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program. As part of the program, students are required to go on hospital rotations, and Mann had to make a choice between two unfamiliar departments: Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or the Emergency Room (ER). Mann had her fingers crossed to work in the ICU, but instead, the choice was made for her.
“I didn’t get my bid in fast enough for the ICU, so I was left with the ER,” she said. “I always said I never, ever wanted to work in the ER because it seemed so overwhelming.”
But she was pleasantly surprised to see a different side of nursing in the ER that was both “challenging and exciting.” For 12 weeks, Mann found that she enjoyed treating patients in the ER during her final semester.
“I fell in love with the ER. The patients would be acutely ill, but as a nurse, I was able to make a difference. We were able to fix them and send them on their way. Then, we could do that for the next patient,” she recalled. “The very thing I never wanted to do, I decided that I really wanted to do.”
Mann was told she would never get hired to work in the ER immediately after graduating from nursing school. But, fortunately, she did. It was only six months later that she became a charge nurse. “It was pretty quick because they said that I adapted relatively fast as an independent learner,” she said.
Years later, she moved to another ER facility and became a manager. There she met a Galen instructor who encouraged her to consider teaching. A few months later, she was eager to share her experience with Galen students as an adjunct clinical instructor.
“I absolutely loved it and I knew that it was just a matter of time before I joined full time because, again, it was one of those things where I loved making a difference,” she said. “I love telling my story to students, and I enjoy showing students what I’ve learned over the years.”
Now that she is the associate program director of the PN program, Mann advises PN students to ensure they have a support system in place to stay motivated and attend all of their classes and clinicals. She is thrilled to educate both new nurses and students because, “When they’re new, they’re very scared.” However, she is determined to help them build confidence, so they can believe, “I can do this.”
As new students enter Galen’s PN program, Mann encourages them to “focus on your courses to be successful,” she said. “It will be a challenging and rewarding experience.”
For Ernest Lennon, Galen College of Nursing changed his life.
When his parents, who were from Panama, both passed away from illnesses that he believes could have been prevented, he vowed to himself that it would never happen in his family again. The Washington native is the first American born in his family. He worked 16 hours a day, five to seven days a week at a treatment center, which left him with little or no time to see his wife, who he met while he was in the military in Fort Sam Houston.
“My wife told me the best thing I could do is to go to college,” he said. “And, as a result of what happened to my mom and dad, nursing was always something I thought about.”
Lennon was pleasantly surprised that he could complete Galen’s Vocational Nursing program in a year.
“And, if I continued for another 16 months, I could be an RN,” he said. “It blew me away because I thought I had just wasted 3½ years working at the treatment center, and I could’ve been in school this whole time.”
When Lennon started attending classes at the Galen’s San Antonio campus, he had no idea that he would be inspiring so many students. He had become well-versed in giving PowerPoint presentations, and those skills quickly turned into speaking engagements as a Student Representative at orientations.
Eventually, he was asked to speak at the Vocational Nursing (VN) graduation in 2011.
“I took the experiences that we had throughout the year and reminded my classmates of the heartaches, jokes, and laughs,” he said. “But I also told them all that we were prepared for a promising future.”
As a Student Representative, Lennon proactively sent updates via email and text messages to his fellow classmates. At the end of each quarter, he designed certificates for everyone in the class to encourage them to push toward their goals. For the VN graduation, he also created certificates for them.
Lennon’s standout efforts earned him The Marjorie Perrin Essence of Nursing Human Touch Award. The recipient is nominated by classmates who choose a peer they feel most embodies the human touch in their interactions with patients and fellow nurses.
But the VN graduation wasn’t the last speech Lennon delivered to students. Once Lennon completed the LVN to ADN program, he was asked to speak again to both the VN and ADN graduates. Not only did Lennon speak at the ceremonious event, but he also won another Human Touch award in 2013.
He went on to complete the Online RN to BSN program in 2018.
Today, Lennon has been working for the past seven years as a floor nurse at a mental health treatment center where they apply electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to patients who struggle with PTSD, psychosis, or severe depression. ECT helps to stabilize the brain, so patients can have a normal routine, Lennon said.
“As floor nurses, we make sure the patients are treated well and check for any pain or nausea after they wake up from being under anesthesia,” he said.
Lennon believes Galen was a “confidence booster,” which helped him to face challenges head-on.
“When you first start the courses, it’s kind of not as daunting. But when you get into pharmacology, and medical-surgical classes, you almost want to pull your hair out because it’s not that easy to grasp,” he said. “But the professors work with you and help you get over those hurdles, which helped me with my skills and confidence.”
Lennon added: “My classmates were top-notch, and I felt like I was just the average guy. I was surrounded by instructors and students who were accomplished, and I felt great to be among them. They gave me so much encouragement.”