University of Northwestern – St. Paul welcomed four new full-time faculty in 2020—three of whom are Northwestern alumni. Below is an excerpt of our interview with Krystal Seeling, assistant professor in the School of Nursing.
Krystal Seeling was an adult medical/surgical nurse, then a pediatric medical/surgery/cardiac nurse at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and part-time adjunct professor at the U of M before joining the nursing faculty at University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
Did you aspire to teach in Christian higher education?
I did. I taught a semester of clinicals at the University of Minnesota before coming to Northwestern; that’s where my desire to teach at a Christian university began. Nurses have such an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ. As I worked one-on-one with patients, I saw there was so much opportunity for teaching students and new nurses about the enormity of the impact they could have in the lives of their patients. It lit a fire to teach full time in a Christian community.
Tell me about your journey to working at UNW?
God led me here! I recognized a nurse from my R.N. program while in a hospital waiting room with my neighbor a few years ago. She told me she was also working as an adjunct professor at University of Northwestern and mentioned the School of Nursing needed more clinical instructors. I enjoyed teaching clinicals and working bedside with students, so I decided to apply.
I taught as part-time adjunct professor with UNW’s School of Nursing for three years, and started teaching full-time in August after earning my master’s degree.
What part of the nursing curriculum interests you most?
I love teaching the “Serving through Interprofessional Collaboration” course, as well as clinicals for the “Adult Advanced Care Services” course. I get to be involved in the best of both worlds—teaching in the classroom and at the bedside.
Interprofessional collaboration is a team approach to health care where nurses, providers, and other health care professionals work together to provide patients with the best care individualized to meet their needs. Team-based care is a fairly new and advancing approach to health care and was a big part of my learning process as a new nurse.
I love interprofessional collaboration because it is a significant part of nursing; students may not initially recognize this. As a new nurse, they focus on completing their nursing tasks, not yet realizing they will become a leader to their colleagues in their patient’s care because they spend the most time with the patient.
Because of the time nurses spend with patients and the personal conversations they are able have with them, they learn pertinent information they can pass to other members of the team—like sharing with the physical therapist fears about mobility so they can be addressed prior to discharge or helping meet a specific nutrition need with the dietician.
How do you teach your students to be the hands and feet of Jesus to patients?
In the clinical setting, I believe it is important to instill in students the importance of meeting each patient where they are and seeing them as valued individuals created in the image of Christ and loved by Him. I help students realize that as nurses we are inherently in an unequal position of power with patients because they are vulnerable, but we don’t want our patients to feel that.
We want patients to know we care about them as a person, so we need to do things with them, not to them. I help my students learn the importance of sitting down at eye-level with their patients every shift and giving them their undivided attention—to let them know they recognize their needs and to validate them as a person—to really minister to and love these people.
How has COVID affected students in the nursing program?
COVID has made things interesting, but I have been so impressed by the dedication and creativity demonstrated by my colleagues to create high-level virtual and simulation lab learning activities for clinicals. Although in-person clinicals were impacted by COVID-19, the surprising result was that students have shown a renewed vigor for learning in the clinical environment; they’re taking more initiative and are engaging in every opportunity they can to learn—so kudos to the students!
What piece of advice you would give to incoming freshmen?
Keep your focus on Christ. Remain dedicated and positive. The nursing program will challenge you. The learning is intensive, and students can feel easily overwhelmed if they do not rely on Christ and keep a “big picture” view.
Also, I would tell students coming into the School of Nursing to remain flexible. Things are always changing in nursing—protocols, research, day-to-day workflow. You can show up for a shift and your entire patient assignment. Nurses have to always stay focused on the most important task they have: putting the patient first. The ability to be flexible is a huge part of nursing, so practicing that in nursing school is important.
What advice you would give to graduating seniors?
To students about to launch into their nursing career: keep that focus on Christ. He brought you to this place for a specific reason. You have a unique gift to offer in nursing that no one else can. Remain open to His guidance. Be salt and light through the nursing platform you have been given.
Also, remember that you can’t do everything on your own. Nursing can be taxing and stressful as well as rewarding; with God you can do it.
What is an accomplishment you are proud of?
That I kept pursuing my nursing journey. Nursing was not my plan! It wasn’t even on my radar as a college student. There are no healthcare professionals in my family whatsoever. I wanted to be a lawyer! I did have a dream of being a college professor, but in a lawyer capacity—or teaching English.
Seeing how God brought me full circle to teaching is remarkable. I love the Lord, and I feel like this is what He is calling me to do.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to read, love spending time with my family and dogs, and doing things outside as much as possible. I like to kayak, swim, and hike. I don’t like the cold, but I still enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and being outside even in the winter. In the summer I love flower gardening; every spring my husband and I spend time picking out flowers and planting them, so our yard is filled with colorful flowers all summer.
What is your favorite place on campus?
I haven’t had much of a chance to explore campus, but look forward to exploring the beautiful area by the lake!
What have you been reading or listening to recently that you’d recommend?
A daily Bible in chronological order. There’s something about reading the Bible in chronological order that has really helped my understanding of events in Scripture.
What is one thing about Northwestern you’d like people to know?
UNW is a place where students can trust they’ll be nurtured and supported in their whole person. We know that challenges exist for students—whether at school, in their personal life, or at home—but these don’t have to become barriers to achieving their goals. We want to partner with each student and help them accomplish the goals God has equipped them to achieve.
In the School of Nursing, we come alongside each student to guide them through learning the skills they will need to be successful nurses. We really care about each student—who they are, what they need, and who they will become.