The patient, doctor of nursing

Nursing instructor Lee Nelson inspires through his enduring dedication

By Crystal Olmedo

Two of the most sought-after qualities of being a nurse are passion and care. Riverside City College associate professor of nursing, Lee Nelson has demonstrated these qualities through his dedication to his profession and his students.

During the past year Nelson endured nearly fatal illnesses, yet that has not prevented him from working and sharing his time and knowledge with RCC.

“During the first week of January, I underwent surgery for herniation repair and afterward I had aspiration pneumonia. I was basically inhaling my stomach contents,” Nelson said. “I was in the hospital for a total of 17 days and I needed a walker. I could barely walk the distance of my room.”

“One day a nurse named Jeremy took me down a long hall across from my room and told me to walk back to my room,” Nelson continued. “He told me it was time that they stopped babying me and that I need to start gaining back my strength. I do look back and think about that.”

Nelson stresses the importance of truly believing in a patient and being supportive in every way. He said his personal experiences help him in the teaching process.

“Something I learned is that you never give up hope or take away people’s hope, ” Nelson said.

Nelson said his near brush with death has renewed his desire to progress in life. He also practices the martial art of Muay Thai and said he hopes to begin training again in November and move up two levels from a gray insignia to a yellow.

Being well rounded not only helps him to balance his professional duties and his personal life it reflects on his students.

“He really tries to put time aside for his students when they have questions or are struggling. He goes above and beyond and does more than just his job,” Thomas Bean, a Nursing student at RCC said.

“I chose nursing because of how much I like people and caring for friends when they were sick,” Bean said. “He made it a lot better for me by helping me to set goals and have a better sense of direction. As one of his students you don’t have to worry about where you’re going because you already know.”

Bean affectionately referred to him as Papa Nelson for his truly caring nature, not only toward students but for people as a whole.

Nelson gave a lecture on patient simulation technology at the Men in Nursing Seminar at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Bernardino, Oct. 23.

Men in Nursing is an organization aimed at raising awareness and supporting the rising number of male nurses, as well as the advancement of the nursing field as a whole.

The organization’s goal is to educate and advocate for men in nursing, but the group also includes female members, as they do not discriminate.

At the lecture Nelson explained different techniques and challenges associated with patient simulation, but he also stressed the fact that it is no equal substitution for caring for actual patients. Patient simulation includes the use of lifelike mannequins, that react to stimulus such as oxygen intake, to prepare students for treating real patients in a hospital setting.

RCC has it’s own Virtual Hospital where nursing students receive hands on learning in simulation of various specific medical situations.

“I want to prepare our students for the eventuality situations like the ones we practice (which) do happen – and when it does, they can handle it calmly and effectively,” Nelson said.

According to clinical trials by the Board of Registered Nursing, students should be able to receive about 25 percent of training for treating patients in simulation. But Nelson doesn’t agree. “You have to be in a real hospital and do the real deal,” Nelson said.

During the course of the workshop, Nelson opened up the floor for questions from students and participants. It was evident that students appreciated the enthusiasm he has when he speaks about nursing.

“I noticed your passion,” Rolando Medina, a nursing student at Chaffey Colloge said. “How do you maintain that? I have seen nurses that are just burnt out and it reflects on their attitude.”

“Right from the beginning, I loved my profession,” Nelson said. “I know that there are people alive because of what I’ve done. I am a human being and I realized that you have to take care of yourself.”

Nelson highlighted how allowing himself to take a vacation every now and then helps prevent work overload.

Nelson served as the RCC Academic Senate president for several years and decided not to run for reelection for the 2015-2016, but still maintains an active role in the organization.

“I had a good relationship with Dr. Haghighat who was president of the Faculty Association,” Nelson said. “He was very supportive and always stood up for the Academic Senate even during a time when the Academic Senate and Faculty Association did not have the best relationship.”

Since Nelson no longer serves as president for the senate, he says he has more time to focus on his Nursing. He has even begun to pursue his Doctorate at Western University.

“Some people say, ‘oh, well you’re going to be a doctor now.’ And I say, ‘No, I’m going to be a specialist in nursing,” Nelson said. “I want a Doctorate. My mom’s 81 and I know that sounds cheesy, but I want to be able to show her.”

Men in Nursing presented RCC with an award for the Best Nursing School for Men in 2013, which Nelson accepted on the school’s behalf. One of Nelson’s goals is to establish an official chapter of the American Association of Men in Nursing at RCC.

There is currently an informal group of nursing students, but Nelson says they are in the process of becoming a formal chapter.

Nelson does not plan to retire and plans to continue working as along as he is able.

“I am privileged to care for people,” Nelson said. “I have the greatest job in the world and I want to continue learning.”