Reflection is a big part of Norman Olsen’s life.
It’s the name of one of his favorite courses that he teaches in American Sentinel University’s BSN program (Reflections on Nursing Practice). It’s the subject of his May 2013 publication in Reflections on Nursing Leadership. And it’s the practice through which he’s been able to survive one of the greatest challenges he has faced in his lifetime.
A Career He Loves
Most of Norman’s nursing career has been in critical care. After a career in human services, he became a Registered Nurse in 1984 and worked his way up to become the director of nursing at a rehabilitation hospital in Sarasota, Fla. When he moved to the Florida Keys in 1986, he began teaching as an adjunct professor at Key West, Fla.-based Florida Keys Community College. In 2000, Norman earned his MSN in nursing education and eventually became the dean of nursing at FKCC.
“If you love to nurse and you love to teach, being able to combine the two is the best job in the world,” he says.
Norman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010—and it changed everything.
“I couldn’t work full time as dean or in the recovery room where I was working part time,” he says. A colleague suggested teaching online and referred Norman to American Sentinel University, where she was also teaching. Norman had taught distance education classes at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and elsewhere. He immediately reached out to American Sentinel.
“I’ve loved American Sentinel from the very first course I taught,” he says. “I really enjoy teaching experienced nurses; I learn more from my students more than they learn from me.”
As part of Norman’s realization that MS would prevent him from keeping up the busy pace of his previous career, he uprooted himself and moved to a farm in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia.
“I needed a simpler life,” he says, adding that teaching online is a wonderful way to continue to use his skills and share his knowledge from the comfort of his home. “It’s almost like American Sentinel was meant to be.”
Finding His New Normal
As his health improved, Norman decided he was capable of handling a full-time job again and completed a post-master’s certificate. In spring 2013, he accepted a faculty position at nearby Piedmont College’s school of nursing in Demorest, Ga. He also now volunteers at a free health clinic to continue to gain hands-on experience he can bring into the classroom. And of course, he still teaches at American Sentinel.
For Norman, reflection has been a critical step along his life-altering journey. So, he wrote about it—and his article, “Self-reflection: Foundations for meaningful nursing practice” was accepted for publication by Reflections on Nursing Leadership, the journal of Sigma Theta Tau International. The article focuses on how important it is for nurses to deliberately think about their nursing practice as they grow older.
“I felt it was a poignant topic, given what I’ve been through these last few years,” he says. “When you are a younger nurse, you’re very reactive, but as you go through life, you realize it’s so important to actually apply what you learn in life to your practice. For me, developing MS was a reality check, which many nurses go through. I think each of us gains a certain wisdom throughout our careers. This article was about that.”