ASU Faculty Spotlight: Jennifer Heyer, ASN Nursing program

Jennifer Heyer recently received the 2021 Albany Woman of the Year Award in College Education, and the 2021 ASU Teacher of the Year Award. She has also received the 2020 Darton College of Healthcare Professions Shining Star Award for Superior Teaching, and the 2010 Southwest Georgia’s 40 Under 40 Award. Heyer is an associate professor for the ASN program in the ASU Darton College of Health Professions.

Heyer earned a BSN from Georgia Southern University, and an MSN and FNP from Albany State University. 


What do you do at Albany State University and what motivated you to learn more about that field?      Jennifer Heyer

I am an associate professor in the associate of science in nursing program and teach adult health III to senior level students. This is the course where they learn about acute care and emergency nursing. 

I was motivated to get into teaching when I worked as a nurse in the emergency room at Phoebe many years ago. I found myself frustrated with annual competencies each year, when I could not remember some of the content from the previous year. I had to find a way to “own the material” and be confident in my knowledge and skills. I decided the best way to truly know and understand the material was to become involved in teaching it. 

I soon found myself in the role as the night shift educator and ultimately the educator for the department.  I also loved precepting students and new employees and would always request to work with students when they rotated in the ER. As an ER nurse, I also enjoyed teaching trauma, cardiac, and pediatric courses within the community. My passion for teaching as the ER educator motivated me to teach full-time in higher education.

How did it feel to win the Albany Woman of the Year College Education Award?  

Oh wow!  I am still in shock.  I felt so honored just being nominated and was certainly blown away by all the support from current and former students on social media advocating for me to receive this award.  I was extremely humbled when my name was called as the recipient.  I cried!!  It is such a blessing to be able to do what you love and love what you do every single day.

Why did you choose to work at ASU?

I started working full-time at Darton College almost twenty years ago.  I love the students, community, and community partners that I am able to serve by teaching nursing at ASU.  I am passionate about giving back to our community, one student at a time. My job at ASU allows me to utilize my gifts every day to make a difference. Darton College of Health Professions is the leading provider of nursing students and nurses in our community; therefore, I am able to impact our community firsthand. 

The circle of support within the nursing division is quite amazing too!  DCHP is very blessed to have talented and dedicated faculty, staff, and administration.

What are your responsibilities as a faculty member of the Nursing Department?

I teach in the classroom one day per week and take students to the clinical setting two days a week.  In addition to teaching, I maintain weekly office hours where I advise and counsel students, grade assignments, and work on creating active teaching and learning strategies that impact student learning.  Additionally, I serve on several departmental committees including serving as co-chair of the Undergraduate Nursing Curriculum Committee.  I also volunteer on several division and university wide committees.  I am involved in many other scholarly and research activities, including being a peer reviewer for the Journal of Emergency Nursing and I am a consultant / reviewer for a nursing publishing company where I am working on NEXT Generation NCLEX nursing case studies.  Furthermore, I serve on several thesis committees for our graduate level nursing students.

What do you love most about being a professor at ASU?

Without a doubt the students! I love the interactions and relationships with our students.  It thrills me to watch concepts come together in adult health III and cheer our students on as they take the NCLEX and begin their first nursing job.  It is extremely rewarding to watch them grow in our profession.  When I am in the clinical setting, I get to watch our former students in action, and it is beyond exciting to see them developing and thriving as a nurse. Our students inspire me daily and knowing that I am helping shape the nurses who will have an impact on many patients and families within our community is priceless. 

Who made the biggest impact on you and who is someone you consider to be a role model?

My very first nursing role model was and is my mom. She has been a nurse for fifty years.  Her name is synonymous with excellence, and I have always been driven to make her proud.  She has made a tremendous impact on my nursing career. She instilled in me the mindset that I can and should learn from anyone and everyone…it did not matter if you were the patient, the CEO, housekeeping, or a student.

Using this approach has helped me develop into the strong nurse and educator that I am.  The best advice my mom ever gave me when I started working in the EC was “everybody belongs to somebody…while they may come in dirty or smelly, they belong to someone…you don’t know they aren’t the President or CEO and are smelly and dirty because they were working in the yard or what they were doing. You treat every single person as your own, and you will be a good nurse.”

I continue to use this approach in teaching.  Every student has a story and comes with previous experiences.  If I can make a connection with a student, it then becomes personal.  When it becomes personal for the student and you foster a relationship with them, in turn they strive to make you proud and work harder to achieve their goals.

What are obstacles you’ve had to overcome to progress as a professor and scholar? 

There have been times when I have felt burnt out in nursing and teaching.  I continuously reflect and search for ways to better myself as a nursing educator.  For example, I will attend a conference or engage in new scholarly activities that help keep me developing as a nursing scholar.

What advice would you give to students with an interest in your profession?

Becoming a nursing educator requires a commitment and a passion for lifelong learning.  It begins with learning the art and science of nursing, progressing to learning the art and science of teaching, and then ultimately contributing to the science and scholarship of nursing education.

Before you can become a nursing educator, you have to become a nurse first.  Here is my advice to becoming a nurse and to new nurses (especially during the first year):

  • Learn from every single person you encounter.
  • Treat everyone like you would want to be treated.
  • Learn to take care of yourself.
  • Show yourself grace.
  • Celebrate even the smallest successes.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • You will make mistakes. Learn from them.
  • A person may not always remember what you did but they will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel. You can save a life, but if you do so with a noncaring attitude, that is what the patient’s family will remember. However, if you lose a life and you treated the patient with dignity, respect, care, and compassion, the family will always remember HOW you treated them.
  • Knowledge is power…never stop learning…be the nurse you want taking care of YOU!