The long educational journey for Eastern nursing instructor
Between teaching pediatrics, obstetrics, introduction to nursing and coordinating both LPN and ADN schedules, Becky Varndell completed her doctorate in education and leadership in healthcare in December.
Varndell, 42, is a professional practice assistant professor and campus coordinator for the Price nursing department. Originally from Springfield, Massachusetts, Varndell lived in Arizona before moving to Price, Utah, and is married with three boys, who keep her active. A cool fact about Varndell is her sister is also a nurse.
Believe it or not, Varndell sometimes has downtime and when she does, she spends it with friends and family. She enjoys cross stitching, playing cards and relaxing at home with her family. She is active in practicing her Christian faith where she participates in the Price Chapel in Price.
“I love my church body,” she said, which leads to Varndell’s favorite author, Dee Henderson, who is a well-known Christian author.
Traveling is something Varndell wants to do more of before she dies. One of the places she hopes to visit on her bucket list is Australia. She has already crossed off Paris, South Korea and Holland on her bucket list.
Holland was an extra special trip to her because she went with her grandfather. Varndell is a first-generation American, and a lot of her family is from Holland. While there, she saw the home her father grew up in and a lot of her past family history.
New Year’s goals are not for Varndell, “I have made a vow to never make resolutions, so that I can’t fail at them.” She hopes to “spend more time with my family now that I have a little bit of the burden lifted off. I really want to take some time to nurture myself a little bit.”
There are a lot of good memories that occur each year in the nursing program, but Varndell’s all-time favorite is the “welcome back” breakfast.
“I love when we bring in everybody for the welcome breakfast days in nursing. It’s a laid back time to get to know the students. I love getting to see the second years come back and seeing them share that excitement with the first years. I think it’s a pretty good day when we do that,” she said.
Education is important through Varndell’s eyes. “One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that I am a first-generation college student in my family.” She earned her RN, BSN, masters and now her doctorate degree.
Pima Community College in Arizona was where Varndell graduated with her RN. Then she earned her BSN from Grand Canyon University in Arizona. She earned her master’s degree from Western Governors University and graduated with her doctorate degree from Nebraska Methodist College on Dec. 11, 2020.
“I felt like my doctorate was a perfect degree for both teaching and for the leadership role that I have as the coordinator. I had excellent people who taught me, learned a lot and look forward to implementing what I learned in my practice here.”
Varndell has two titles in the nursing department. One of those is the professional practice assistant professor. She is in charge of teaching OB and Pediatrics for both first year PNs and ADN programs. Her second title is campus coordinator for the Price nursing department specifically.
“I oversee the creation of the clinical schedules. I have a role with the community partners and interacting with them and making sure the relationships we have on those outside of the college are working well. I spend a lot of time with management in those facilities to make sure everything is going well on both ends.”
Varndell always dreamed of becoming a nursing educator and that is why she continued her education. She was also able to start working as a nursing educator sooner than expected. She was hired at USUE as a clinical instructor while working on her master’s degree.
Ever since Varndell stepped foot in her nursing program, she knew she loved women’s health, and that is where she wanted to be. “I knew how much I loved women’s health that I put in for NICU, labor and delivery and postpartum.”
After graduating as an RN, she worked in the NICU in Tucson at University Medical Center. “I ended up getting a job in the NICU and absolutely loved it!” She next transferred to Diamond Children’s Medical Center.
Varndell has a strong passion for the NICU, because she had lost her first son named Samuel. “Because of this, I really felt I could work together with parents who lost their child and have specialized in bereavement with the women’s health services in Price.”
Varndell is good at providing patient care to mothers who lost their own children, because she has lost one of her own. She knows how women felt, and was good at educating them and being there for them during these tough times.
“I have a heart for the people who lose a kid, because I’ve been through it and have walked in those shoes. It’s a place that not everyone can say that they fully understand.”
One of her favorite parts about working at USUE is her students. “I do love you guys, that’s why I do what I do. I love seeing the students in the classroom when the lightbulb goes off. I love seeing someone who has worked hard on a skill and gets so excited that they are able to do it in clinical. The excitement that the students have is contagious, even to me when I am teaching them.”
There are so many incredible things about nursing that it can be hard to pick her favorite aspect. “My favorite thing about nursing is that it’s diversity. You can come in and you can love babies or you can love the geriatric population or you can love surgery. You can then be working in one of those fields and get frustrated and bored with it leading you to want something different, and there are a multitude of positions that you can take.”
Varndell has great advice for future nurses. “Nursing is hard, because at the end of it we are entrusting you with people’s lives.” She emphasized the importance of putting your eyes on a specific goal and being dedicated enough to not give up.
One of the first assignments she gives in her class is typically to ask the students why they want to become nurses and this helps the students throughout the program to be able to reflect on their responses.
Nursing school for Varndell was similar to today’s schooling. “I can still sympathize with you guys, it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.” Even though it was hard and challenging, she overcame these challenges.
Her best advice she could give anyone, “To have grit. To do your best in whatever you do and to have integrity in all that you do.”