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CU Nursing student Colleen J. Waggoner and Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez

CU Nursing Student Gets Top Coach to Mentor Her. The Dean Himself.

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Written by Dana Brandorff on October 30, 2020

Given all the work that deans do, it is unusual for one to take it upon himself to provide clinical oversight and precept a student. The University of Colorado College of Nursing Dean Elias Provencio-Vasquez tends to do the unexpected. “We were thrilled when Dean Eli offered to precept a student during our flu clinic,” said Director of the Campus Health Center Emily Cheshire, DNP.

“It helps me remain connected to both the practice and the students,” said Dean Provencio-Vasquez, PhD, BSN, FAAN, FAANP. “I learned so much and had fun in the process.”

Learning Opportunity for Teacher and Student

For Family Nurse Practitioner student Colleen J. Waggoner, RN, BSN, it was a bit intimidating. Starstruck and a little awed by the prospect of being precepted by the dean of CU Nursing, Waggoner said, “He is such a humble leader and it has been so neat to work alongside him. His career is just inspiring, and to see him have the humility to come here, boots on the ground, working alongside us, servicing his community. I think it’s great.”

The two worked together during the drive-through flu clinic at the Anschutz Medical Campus in early October. Remarking on her experience, Waggoner said, “Working alongside a dean and learning directly under him was incredible.” The Campus Health Center is a nurse-managed clinic operated by CU Nursing and serves the needs of anyone working or studying on the Anschutz Campus.

According to Waggoner, receiving hands-on experience alongside a dean is unusual.

“I haven’t had that type of opportunity at any other university. I think that’s important when people are choosing where they want to go to school. If you want to know your teachers, and your teachers to know you, and to learn from people who are not only qualified but are passionate and want to serve -- this is a great way to do it. I think that speaks to the kind of program we have here at CU,” said Waggoner.

Brushing Up on Skills

Having been in administration for quite a few years and away from front line care, the dean had to brush up on some skills. “I hadn’t worked in a clinic in a little while. So, Colleen and the staff walked me through their process and it came back,” he recalled.

Waggoner said, “He’s a very quick learner and gave me my flu shot. He did a great job. He is such a natural caregiver – interacting with patients and making everyone feel at ease.”

Become a Preceptor
Stay connected to the school that started Advanced Practice. Learn more about become a CU College of Nursing preceptor and help the next generation of clinicians.

Mentor for Life

The two bonded over their common background as neonatal nurses. Before coming to Colorado, the Dean was the head of the neonatal program at University of Texas Houston Health Science Center. “He was so great at affirming my decision to become a family nurse practitioner. He told me that if he had to do it all over again, that would be the route he’d choose,” said Waggoner. That was the pep talk she needed as she nears completion of her master’s in the Family Nurse Practitioner track, and weighs a decision to continue at CU Nursing to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice. “Three years into the program, sometimes you just need a little bit of encouragement. And it was so encouraging to talk to him.”

If Waggoner thought that when she crossed paths with the dean that it would be “one and done”, she does not know Dean Eli. “He’s actually followed up with me afterward about a couple of topics – post-grad opportunities, as well as good family nurse practitioner review courses to take before I take my boards. He has remained in touch and has kept the door open. He cares and it shows.”

For Waggoner, the experience has shaped her. “From the day I interviewed with CU, I knew this was the right fit for me. And being precepted and instructed by the Dean is just the icing on the cake. I think he’s a phenomenal nurse. A phenomenal leader. And a great co-worker!”

Topics: Faculty, Students