Faculty & Staff Directory

Joy Shepard, PhD, RN-BC, CNE

Clinical Associate Professor
Baccalaureate Education
Office: 3125 Health Sciences Building
Phone: (252) 744-6533

As nurse educators, how can we best facilitate learning in adults who come to us with rich diversity of experiences and have intense expectations and aspirations? Each instructor's success depends, in part, on first recognizing and then cultivating one's own philosophies, beliefs, and practices. I am far from having a set belief structure, and I am certain my philosophy will continue to evolve over time. However, there are several core principles that will always exist within my philosophy of teaching. I view these constants as my "educational bedrock" upon which I will always be building and expanding. These foundational principles are: caring, respect, integrity, honesty, objectivity, enthusiasm for learning, a learner-centered orientation, and holism.

Conceptualization of teaching

Teaching is the facilitation of the process of learning. Teaching that is student-centered focuses on the learner rather than on the content or the teacher. As the "Guide on the Side," I create an environment conducive for the acquisition of knowledge and skill in the learner. My teaching philosophy incorporates nearly equivalent apprenticeship, transmission, nurturing, and developmental perspectives. This means that I believe good teachers are highly skilled practitioners of their subject matter. Furthermore, in order for teaching to be effective, mastery of the content must first be achieved. A caring and intimidation-free atmosphere inspires motivation and creates more productive learning. And, the best educators connect with their learners' thinking and reasoning processes, and present the content in a clear, systematic, and comprehensible manner.

Conceptualization of learning

I believe learning is a dynamic lifelong process of growth in knowledge and experience that is largely directed by the individual. It involves synthesis and critical application in real-life situations. Insight, understanding, and perception must be present for learning to occur. The responsibility for learning is with the student, who must actively seek knowledge and understanding. Teachers are facilitators of learning, and information must be presented in ways that are relevant to the learner. Each student has individual means of integrating knowledge, skill, and experience. Within this synergistic process, students and faculty grow together.

As an educator, I have incorporated an eclectic mix of cognitive and humanistic learning theories. Cognitive theory defines learning as an active, constructive, and cumulative process that works towards a goal and depends on the learner's mental processes. The key to learning is the individual's thought, perception, memory, and ways of structuring information. Cognitive learning theorists seek to understand factors that lead to complex learning, and the focus is on meaning rather than behavior. According to the humanistic perspective, each person is unique and possesses great potential for growth. The humanistic philosophy is the basis for Knowles' theory of andragogy, out of which flows the paradigm of the adult learner. One of the principle tenets of andragogy is that adults need to accept primary responsibility for their learning by exhibiting self-direction and actively seeking new learning opportunities.

Goals for student learning

I have an unquenchable desire for my students to become the absolutely best nurses that they can be, and I wish to impart to them enthusiasm and a life-long love of learning. My goal is for students to experience positive and meaningful educational experiences that emphasize problem-solving, patient-centered care, teamwork, and the development of critical thinking skills. It is my aim for students to become untiring patient advocates and to able to accurately assess patient data, correctly integrate information, identify patient-care priorities, and proactively seek solutions. I also want my students to be able to clearly, confidently, and effectively collaborate with other members of the interdisciplinary health care team.

Implementation of philosophy

I believe students are more receptive to learning when there is a supportive environment. Effective adult educators empower students to pursue their own learning path, use instructional strategies that facilitate cognitive processing, and formulate an atmosphere of mutual respect. Adults need to be involved in every phase of their instruction, from planning to evaluation. I respect my student's desire for autonomy and self-determination by offering them as many choices and opportunities as possible. I also recognize and accommodate my students' unique learning styles by employing multimodal teaching techniques, and by presenting the content in a clear and systematic fashion. Increasingly, I am incorporating active learning strategies such as case studies, discussion, and simulations into the classroom, as well as offering guidance with frequent feedback. I also continuously strive to create a milieu of caring, encouragement, honesty, and openness in which a professional nursing identity, a sense of ethical responsibility, and the necessary core knowledge of nursing can inculcate and flourish.

Personal growth plan

It is vital for the nurse educator to continue to grow professionally, because both nursing and teaching are continuously evolving to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. In accordance with this, I recently obtained a PhD in Nursing.  I am constantly researching new materials and keeping up to date with the latest evidence-based findings, demographic trends, and health statistics. 


Research Interests

Dissertation: Hospice Nurses’ Experience of Caring For the Elderly With Wounds at the End-of-Life (February, 2015)

Director of Dissertation: Dr. Janice A. Neil

Major Department: Nursing

Background:   The goal of hospice care is to maximize quality of life and provide peace, comfort, and dignity to patients with terminal illness.  Older dying patients pose unique challenges to meeting this essential goal, especially in the care of wounds.  Wound care in dying patients can be complex, expensive, and threaten quality of life.  With the huge demographic shift towards older people, hospice nurses need to adequately address the comfort needs of dying elderly patients with wounds.  Yet, little is known about how the phenomenon of wound care is experienced in hospice nursing practice.

Problem:  A review of the literature illustrated a paucity of studies concerning the experiences of hospice nurses caring for dying patients with wounds.  In order for hospice nurses to give holistic care, a greater understanding of their wound care experiences, as well as psychological, social, and spiritual factors related to their wound care experiences, is needed.

Aim of the Study: The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the experiences of hospice nurses in caring for elderly patients with wounds at the end-of-life, a phenomenon not well known.

Methodology: Through the use of semi-structured interviews, this exploratory qualitative descriptive study examined the experiences of 13 hospice nurses in caring for elderly patients with wounds at the EOL.

Findings: The rich descriptive data generated from this study provide a beginning understanding of hospice nurses’ experiences with wounds at the end-of-life.  Content analysis of participant interview data revealed five themes that provide valuable new insights into hospice nurses’ experiences concerning wound care in clinical practice: Difficult to Achieve Comfort; Healing is Unrealistic; Coping with Conflict; Hospice Wound Knowledge Deficit, and Positive Affirmation.  The findings have the potential to inform hospice nurse practice and to suggest areas for future research.

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