After more than three decades as a labor and delivery nurse, Dr. Michelle Teschendorf transitioned to a full-time teaching career in 2006.
"I said that if I ever got tired of nursing, I needed to leave the bedside," she said. "I never got tired of delivering babies. I'd stand there and say, 'How did this happen?' I knew how it happened. It was wonderful. I loved it."
However, the allure of working a normal schedule and molding minds was too strong for Dr. Teschendorf to resist.
"I was on call and worked weekends for 32 years," she said. "The first year I had every weekend off, I woke up on Saturday morning and said, 'I have the weekend off! I don't have to go back to work! It felt strange."
Dr. Teschendorf started teaching at Saint Louis Community College in 1997 and became an associate professor at Ferris State University a decade later. She came to Northern Kentucky University in 2013. She is now in her fourth year as director of the Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at NKU.
"I moved into teaching gradually over time," she said. "For almost 10 years, I overlapped teaching and continued to work at the bedside. I finally got to a point when my kids were out of college and I didn't need multiple jobs."
Born to Move
Dr. Teschendorf grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and knew from an early age that she would pursue a nursing career.
"I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else," she said. "I have never regretted it. It's really a life calling to me."
After earning a nursing diploma at the Barnes Hospital School of Nursing in 1975, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Missouri Western State University 21 years later. Dr. Teschendorf added a Master of Science in Nursing and a Ph.D. in Nursing from Saint Louis University in 1999 and 2005, respectively.
"When I finished my master's degree, my committee told me, 'You're not going to be that much different of a nurse — it's that your view is wider. You can see another 20 degrees in each direction. You can see other possibilities. You've learned more about the world and nursing and you have a slightly different way of looking at how to deliver care to your patients,'" she said.
In between delivering babies and working weekends, Dr. Teschendorf had two children, Brian Teschendorf and Theresa Baker, and moved across the United States 12 times. Her husband, Hank, frequently transferred in his career as chemical engineer working for two different companies before retiring.
Dr. Teschendorf has lived in Ohio, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Missouri, Michigan and now Kentucky, near their daughter who works as a research biologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
"I was excited when my husband said, 'How would you like to move to St. Louis?'" she said. "I felt like I was moving home. I am a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan. I live in Cincinnati and say, 'My blood runs red, but that would be Cardinal red.' I love baseball."
The current landscape in the NKU nursing program is much different than it was when Dr. Teschendorf arrived in Highland Heights six years ago.
"When I came in, we still had every summer off," she said. "You could only take the courses that we offered, and it took three years to get your RN to BSN. When I took over as the program director, we had gone through a big curriculum revision.
"I could see the vision of where that would go. We started teaching in the summer and offering some different courses with genetics. We really became an independent program away from the traditional program. We have our own courses now."
NKU was already offering online courses when she came to the university, but the program has progressed with each passing year and caters to the varying schedules of nursing students.
"At NKU, for sure, nursing has been the leading edge for online," she said. "That's because we know that we have nurses who work 24/7. They are on call. They have off shifts. They work late. They don't fit into the mold of returning to a university and coming to class. They can't."
When Dr. Teschendorf earned her doctoral degree, she attended a full day of classes on campus each Friday.
"We had back-to-back-to-back classes," she said. "I had a class, then had a break. Another class, then another break. We are always innovative at looking how to pedagogically deliver content to nurses."
Dr. Teschendorf is excited about continuing to help the RN to BSN program at NKU move forward.
"We started online classes long before I came here," she said. "We did all kinds of things, as many schools did. We did fully online. With some groups, we did a hybrid where we would teach once a week and then be online once a week."
Prior to coming to NKU, Dr. Teschendorf was also RN to BSN program director at Ferris State University, so she used her experience to her advantage.
"The thing that I like about being program director is I have been able to do some innovative and different curriculum and coursework since I've been here at NKU," she said.
Dr. Teschendorf believes the biggest key to success for students in the online RN to BSN program is organization.
"Busy people get more done because they are organized," she said. "Set yourself up a calendar, know when things are due and stay on top of it. Pay attention to due dates for things in the course and the next time you need to register for a class or for graduation. A calendar and organization are important."
Dr. Teschendorf still misses bringing babies into the world, but her second career as an educator is also quite rewarding. She's content being a leader at NKU, rooting for the Cardinals and, hopefully, not packing for another move any time soon.
"I'd go back to labor and delivery nursing in a heartbeat if the hours weren't so bad," Dr. Teschendorf said. "It's also neat to see nurses move ahead in their careers after going through the RN to BSN program. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience."
Learn more about the NKU online RN to BSN program.
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