Bruce Hoffman, MSN, FNP, is the program director for the associate degree in Nursing (ADN) program, and he was also one of the earliest graduates from Goodwin’s RN-to-BSN program.
We recently asked Professor Hoffman to give us a look into his career as a registered nurse, paramedic, soon-to-be family nurse practitioner, and now Nursing educator. He also shared his advice to new nursing students and recent graduates looking to jump-start their careers in this exciting field.
Read on to get to know Professor Hoffman a little better.
Q.) Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
A.) I am both a nurse and a paramedic. I work mostly in critical care and critical care transport. I started as an EMT right out of high school. I worked as a patient care assistant in an emergency room at a level 1 trauma center while attending school for my associate degree in nursing. I started as an RN on a cardiology step-down floor and then spent time in critical care, the ER, intensive care, and a cardiac catheterization lab.
While working as an RN, I became a paramedic and really enjoyed that. I eventually came to Goodwin for my RN-to-BSN. I was among the first students through the RN-to-BSN program when it became accredited. I had such a great experience at Goodwin that, eventually, I wanted to return and teach. Many faculty members worked with me every step of the way, helping me use my professional background to advance my education.
I later earned my MSN at Western Governors University in Nursing Education. I knew I wanted to be in academia to help future nurses achieve and do the things I had the opportunity to do.
From there, I earned my post-master’s certificate in FNP studies. I was also teaching here at Goodwin in the RN-to-BSN program. When the previous ADN director retired, I was asked to move into that role, and that’s where I have been ever since.
I was recently just accepted into a doctoral program — so I’ll be working toward my doctorate over the next two years.
Q.) Who or what influenced you to pursue a career in healthcare?
A.) I had a few family members who worked in healthcare. I was always drawn to the drama and action of being in healthcare. I remember seeing the medical helicopters fly over my house and watching trauma teams depicted in movies and TV shows.
My grandmother, Elsa, was also influential. She taught me to have two qualities. First, to be kind, compassionate, and help others. Second, to live a life of integrity — being true to myself. Because of my grandmother, I love to help people, learn from people, and learn about people. My grandmother was most influential in living a life of service to other people, being true to myself, and living out my passions.
I’ve always been fascinated with healthcare, but one of my hobbies is aviation. When I was able to work in critical care transport as a flight nurse, I was able to combine my two passions. I worked as a flight nurse for seven years. I’ve been a nurse for a total of about 17 years.
Q.) Why did you choose Goodwin’s RN to BSN program?
A.) My sister graduated from the ADN program at Goodwin and had a really good experience. I had been looking for a school that could meet the needs of a person who was actively working. At that time, Goodwin’s portfolio program allowed me to demonstrate competency using my work experience. I had a rich professional background and could pull from those experiences to demonstrate my learning. The instructors were flexible. They were interested in hearing about my background and turned those experiences into examples to discuss in class.
Goodwin was still growing, and I could fit in there.
Q.) Tell us more about the portfolio program.
A.) The portfolio program was a way for me to align my past experiences with academic objectives to earn credits for certain courses. I worked with the portfolio director to write my portfolio in a way that demonstrated how my professional development and work experiences met those academic objectives. It would be reviewed by a portfolio committee and, if your portfolio was accepted, you earned the three credits for that course.
The portfolio program was a way for people to get credit for their life and work experiences. As the program director, I’m looking into a holistic admissions process for the ADN program. We’re still exploring our options. But if you’re applying to a nursing program and have 13 years of experience as a medical assistant, that should matter. You already have some of those skills. You already know how to approach patients.
Q.) You still volunteer as a nurse EMT. Tell us more about your current volunteer work in the field.
A.) As an EMT, I volunteer for the local ambulance service in my town. I am the VP of the service. I work with the members and mentor new folks to move into leadership. I recently applied and got our department a grant to teach CPR and first aid certification to English language learners, allowing them to earn their certifications for free.
As a transport nurse, I volunteer on a continuing education committee for the Air Service Transport Association. I work with a team of folks to oversee the quality of continuing education delivered to transport nurses.
Q.) What differentiates Goodwin’s nursing programs from other programs?
A.) There are a few things that set us apart. For one, we have three semesters per year. We run all our nursing classes every single semester. This helps our students, who often face unique challenges outside of the classroom. If they need to take time off, they don’t have to wait an entire year for the course they need to run again. Because of this, we are the largest producer of nurses in CT. We graduate roughly 60-65 nurses three times per year.
Secondly, our faculty are phenomenal. They all have relevant or current nursing experience. They’re also very understanding of the circumstances that our students face. Our faculty expertly blend an academically rigorous education with the flexibility that adult students need. This is a nursing program — you will have to make sacrifices, but we will work with you along the way.
Q.) How has the field of nursing changed or evolved since you first began your career?
A.) Right now, there is a greater understanding of work-life balance. There wasn’t a lot of that back in the day. Hospitals have also started setting up spaces where they can cultivate innovation from the folks that are working there. When I started, there was more separation between the leadership and the staff on the floor.
Q.) With all these shifts and changing dynamics, what kinds of conversations about career preparation are you having with nursing students in the classroom?
A.) We have a lot of conversations with our students about professional identity — recognizing who you are in a big pool of other nurses. It’s not all about you — it’s about the greater good. We teach students how to communicate effectively, meet the demands of the job, and practice self-awareness and integrity. We foster our students’ innate desire to care for themselves, their families, and their patients.
We also talk about how to promote a sense of professional belonging by working together and collaborating.
Q.) You’ve worked in the ICU, emergency rooms, trauma units, cardiology, and med flight. Which of these experiences shaped your nursing career the most?
A.) I don’t think any one particular experience has shaped my career the most. It was a mix of all these experiences. I worked 2-3 years in each area and tried to gain as much understanding as possible, so when I was in another realm, I had that previous experience to pull from.
I did this to gain as much breadth and depth of knowledge as I could to be successful in various roles. When I was going to paramedic school, I was already a nurse. My nursing career benefited from my being a paramedic, and my paramedic role benefited from my being a nurse.
Q.) What made you decide to get into nursing education?
A.) If you listen to “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch from Carnegie Melon, he talks about the people who helped him to achieve his dreams. So, he wanted to do that for other people. I very much resonate with that. I’ve had a lot of support and mentorship along the way. I wanted to be that for other people. I wanted to enable other people’s dreams.
Q.) What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in Goodwin’s Nursing Program from your time as a student to now director of the ADN program?
A.) The world has changed. The “figure it out or get out,” philosophy is gone. I think that’s a good thing. We need to be responsive and listen to what students are sharing.
Q.) How have these changes enhanced student learning?
A.) Today, student voices are much stronger. Now, we tell students, “Look, you have to be professional in how you ask for something.” Before, it was, “Don’t ask for it.”
I’ll never forget the moment I realized this. I attended Obama’s second inauguration and noted how he interacted with the public. Someone interrupted and heckled him, but he shut it down by saying, “I respect people who want to heckle, but there’s a way to ask.”
We’re teaching these young adults how to navigate their professional lives while also having a voice. The goal is not to say, “Don’t ask questions.” It’s to teach them how to ask those questions professionally.
Q.) What kinds of hands-on learning opportunities are available to Goodwin ADN students?
A.) Our SIM lab is continuously growing. We have mannequins that behave like actual patients, which expose nursing students to situations before encountering them in the real world. Students go through 14 weeks of clinical experiences in various settings. They work on acute floors, step-down floors, rehab units, and more. They are there from the first day of their clinicals, getting introduced to Nursing.
We have a pretty aggressive skills lab where students are assessed on their skills. If a student is having trouble, we can do simulations that replicate that skill or bring them into the lab for additional practice.
We also do some health fairs throughout the year. There’s a nursing mission trip that students can apply for every summer. Our nursing students do full rotations through pediatrics, acute care, OB, school, and summer camp settings, and we do three or four semesters of skills and acute care.
Q.) You’re pursuing your doctorate right now. What are your future career plans?
A.) If I could choose the perfect job, it would be chief innovations officer. I love helping students find ways to use their work experience to gain academic credit. My final project will be the development of a paramedic-to-RN bridge program. There are plenty of nurse-to-paramedic bridge programs, and this is a hot topic for me. Paramedics come with a very specific set of skills, and they are trained to a “T” on those skills. I think acute care and community settings could benefit from how paramedics are trained.
Q.) What is next for Goodwin’s ADN program? Any plans for the future of Nursing education at Goodwin?
A.) I would love to expand the program so we can accept more than 65 students per semester. I’d love to have enough faculty, space, and a large enough lab to bring in more students.
I’d love a more holistic admissions process wherein students can use their previous work experiences to earn credit. I’d also like to develop more strategic partnerships with local hospitals so our students can work during school and be onboarded at these facilities to ease the transition to becoming a professional. I think this would benefit both the hospitals and our students.
Q.) What advice would you give to recent nursing graduates as they start their careers?
A.) Two things.
Firstly, stay open minded — take the good and leave the bad.
Secondly, be loving, kind, and spread a little love. The world could use a giant hug right now.
To learn more about Goodwin’s nursing programs, contact us today!