Every nurse can recall at least one patient she or he will never forget. For Monica Maraska, RN, associate professor and chair of the Nursing program at County College of Morris (CCM), that patient was an elderly man living in Philadelphia.
"He was a fiercely independent man and determined to remain in his own home," Maraska recalls. "His disposition, like his neighborhood, was not a pleasant one." He had a circulatory problem that resulted in severe swelling and wounds to his legs.Maraska provided care for that as his visiting nurse.
"When I look back on that, I realize that as a young nurse I didn’t fully understand the importance of being proud and being able to live on your own," she says. "We couldn’t fix everything. But the services we provided allowed him to stay there." Even after she left to pursue other career goals, she heard that he was still living at home several years later.
Maraska’s background is in geriatrics and home care. She was vice president of patient care for home healthcare services in a company that covered several states. When she moved to New Jersey, she took a position as a staff nurse at Morristown Medical Center.
"I was recruited to CCM in 1996 by a faculty member who approached me on the hospital floor because she saw that I enjoyed interacting with students," she says. After one year as an adjunct instructor, Maraska was brought on full-time.
Before becoming chair, she taught Nursing Fundamentals, which introduces students to core nursing concepts, including basic skills, theoretical content and application to the practice setting. As chair, she now teaches Nursing Colloquium, the last course before graduation, which includes resume writing and interviewing skills.
"Freshmen students make me smile.I need to escort them into a patient’s room because they are so anxious," she says. "Senior students make me proud. Being able to witness their professional growth is such a reward."
Maraska says students can be the best teachers. "The importance of being a good example is amplified when there are 60 pairs of eyes and ears observing and listening to you. Every day, that makes you a better nurse."