Fifteen Minutes with Katie Knox, MSN, RN


As with many nurses, Katie Knox, MSN, RN, has many talents and wears a variety of professional hats in the Department of Nursing Services and Patient Care. Katie earned her BSN from the UI College of Nursing in 2006 and her MSN, also from the UI, just last May. She is a staff nurse in medical psychiatry and a member of the STAR Skin Team. Since September, she also serves as an instructor for Nursing Orientation/Staff Development and is a facilitator for the Nurse Residency Program. Let’s meet Katie Knox, who greets, welcomes, and prepares nurses new to UI Hospitals and Clinics.

How did you get into nursing and then into nursing education?
I came to the UI to pursue a degree in music therapy, but something just didn’t jive for me. A friend of mine, who was in nursing school, encouraged me to think about becoming a nurse, which I did. As a student, I was particularly interested in psychiatric nursing. And it was during my internship through the Summer 10 Program, when I worked as a nursing assistant in the psychiatric inpatient unit, that I discovered how much I really enjoyed it. So, I was particularly happy to start out in the Medical Psychiatry unit after I graduated in 2006 with my BSN. I returned to school in 2008, and after a few years, while I also continued to work almost full-time, I earned my MSN last May [2011], specializing in nursing education. Since September I have been splitting my time between Medical Psychiatry and teaching in the Nursing Clinical Education Center.
Please tell me a little about what you do in NCEC.
My official title is Staff Development Instructor, and my primary role is teaching in new nurse orientation. When nurses are hired to UI Hospitals and Clinics, they go through a two-week centralized nursing orientation program, where we focus on things new nurses need to know to be successful as staff nurses here, such as policies, procedures, and other unique aspects of the practice of nursing here at UI Hospitals and Clinics. After their two weeks of orientation, our nurses go out into their clinical areas and work alongside their preceptors for several weeks to become oriented to specialty care and service delivery on their units. And because health care is ever evolving, we ask that our staff nurses go through the Department of Nursing orientation again if they leave and return to UI Hospitals and Clinics, but have been away for more than a year.
What do you do as facilitator of the Nurse Residency Program?
The Nurse Residency Program is for newly graduated nurses who are hired as staff nurses here. When they are hired, it’s with the understanding that they’ll be doing the residency program for their first year. UI Hospitals and Clinics participates in the University Health Systems Consortium and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s new graduate nurse residency program. As one of the facilitators within this program, I have 11 new nurses in my group who work in either medical-surgical or behavioral health services. Each residency group meets monthly, for four hours per month, when we discuss their experiences in their clinical areas. We also address other topics of interest to the new graduate nurse, such as work/life balance and transitioning to the professional environment.
Does our being a Magnet Hospital impact the curricula for orientation and the Nurse Residency Programs?
While there’s a standard curriculum for the UHC/AACN Nurse Residency, and we follow it, we do weave in the elements of our Magnet environment that are important for new nurses at UI Hospitals and Clinics to know. We encourage our new nurses to take great pride in the fact that we are a Magnet institution. We want them to become involved, to the point they are comfortable, in the excellent opportunities available to them here because they work in a Magnet hospital. Additionally, there are nurse-sensitive indicators—things that nurses need to do to improve the quality of patient care—that Magnet uses to re-designate facilities. For example, nurses are responsible for preventing falls and making sure that interventions are in place for their patients. Another example would be preventing central line infections.
How many faculty are there in the NCEC?
We have three full-time and several part-time staff development instructors who all do a variety of things in the NCEC. We also rely a lot on our advanced-practice nurses in the clinical divisions of the nursing department to be the content experts and to help us teach.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I really like the diversity of people I work with. As an example, in nursing orientation, we frequently see nurses with many years of experience who have decided to come here to work. And while it doesn’t really surprise me that they would choose to come here, it does give me a great sense of pride to know that we attract experienced nurses. I also enjoy working with the recent graduates—some of whom I have taught in clinicals.
Where do you think you’d like to go with your career?
I don’t actually know. I may continue my nursing education—I’ve always believed that education is a life-long process. I’m very happy with what I do now—I especially like working part-time on the Medical Psychiatry floor and also teaching in the NCEC. In the spring I’ll start teaching clinicals with a group of eight BSN nurses.
Do you want to continue working as a staff nurse?
I think it’s a tremendous advantage to maintain my staff nurse role. When I’m in the educator mode, I think that people have a different view of me knowing that I am a staff nurse, too. In fact, my nurse residents relate to me well because I work side-by-side with some of them.
What pearls of wisdom do you have to share with your colleagues?
I do have one thing I’d like share. I think that one of the greatest things in the world is when people ask questions—think about all the great research that has begun when someone asked a question that needed an answer.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
I have two boys who keep me busy. Owen is 4 years old and is a train fanatic. Andy is 1 ½ years old and is into anything that big brother is into. My husband, Jason, stays at home with the kids while I’m working. As a family, we like to travel out of town to see family when we have a free weekend.