SMC alumna returns to join nursing faculty

Published 8:56 am Monday, November 29, 2021

DOWAGIAC — In eight years, Haley Smith went from studying nursing at Southwestern Michigan College to teaching nursing at Southwestern Michigan

Some of her former teachers are now colleagues, particularly Chair Dr. Debra Green, who delivered her in Niles when Smith was born.

Even before she graduated from Union High School in 2013, Smith, of Dowagiac, attended SMC as a dual-enrolled student.

“I decided to go into nursing junior year of high school after taking an anatomy class,” she said. “I loved it, and knew I wanted to do something in a medical field. Helping people and seeing them get better appealed to me.”

Her cousin, Brian Edgerly, teaches at SMC as a nursing adjunct. Her aunt, Karen Harris, of Edwardsburg, taught English at SMC, and recently published a book on Chesapeake
Bay retrievers.

Smith graduated from SMC in 2016 and began work at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph on the medical/surgical and pediatric floor.

“There’s a small peds population,” Smith said, “so if there are pediatric patients admitted, we get them. Otherwise, it’s med/surg adult patients we take care of. That fall I started my bachelor’s through Chamberlain University and finished in December 2017. I came back here in the fall of 2018 as an adjunct,” teaching Nursing Foundations part-time.

“Last spring I left at the end of the semester” to try her hand in a management position on the floor she worked on. “It was a good opportunity, but wasn’t for me as far as fitting my life and what I wanted,” Smith said.

“Then this opportunity presented itself. Melissa (Kennedy, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Services) knew I would be very interested if something came up. I came back as faculty mid-semester.”

Smith teaches Med/Surg 2 to third-semester students. Dean Kennedy covered Pharmacology 2, but Smith will add that beginning in January 2022.

As a faculty member, Monday is prep day, Tuesday and Wednesday lecture days and Thursday and Friday clinical days with her students at Lakeland in St. Joseph.

“My master’s will be done in January, and nursing education is the route I’ve been on,” Smith said. “I love teaching. When I was a student, they always told us, ‘Don’t pick a specialty, just go to the med/surg floor and build up your skills as a nurse.’ When I applied for a position, I wasn’t familiar with the peds/adult unit, but the manager of that unit I applied for also managed it. When she interviewed me, she said the position I applied for had been filled, but there was a position available on the peds/adult unit. Now I love that unit and can’t imagine not being there. I’m not there a lot because I’m relief, but if I had stayed in floor nursing, I love pediatrics a lot. And I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience from the med/surg side.”

When the pandemic hit, her unit converted to COVID-19 care. Smith bounced between several areas as a floor nurse. “That was a very stressful time, going to work not knowing what area you’re going to be in,” she said.

Smith, the middle daughter between two sisters, gravitated to the academic side of nursing because “I like seeing novice future nurses progress and how much they grow. On the floor I work on right now I have a co-worker, a nurse who graduated from SMC, who was in my very first clinical group as an adjunct instructor. How great they become as nurses is very rewarding.”

“I was living at home with my parents when I went through the nursing program here,” Smith said. “They basically went through nursing school with me because I studied constantly and always explained things to them to make sure I understood it. They had to listen to me after tests” as she agonized over whether she passed.

Her mother, a former juvenile probation officer, manages the Cass County Community Corrections program. Her father just retired from Special Lite, the Decatur door supplier.

Students interested in SMC’s health programs for Spring or Fall 2022 can apply to the college for free at