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An Unexpected Career

Joyce Pate

Joyce Pate

Five years after she graduated from PCC with a degree in nursing, alumna Joyce (Hatfield) Pate ( ’83) received a job offer to teach nursing classes at her alma mater. At first, Joyce planned to turn down the position. “I have a hearing loss, and my speech can be on the nasal side because of the loss,” she said. “I told myself, ‘Shouldn’t a teacher’s presentations sound nice and pleasant?’”

But just like Moses before her, Joyce learned that God could use her despite any doubts. “I was certain teaching nurses was not going to be for me, but I prayed about it,” she said. “The Lord gave me some verses—which He gave to Moses—to soothe my fear.”

Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Exodus 4:11–12.

“Those words sealed the deal for me to sign a contract with PCC to teach nursing,” Joyce said.

In the years after she graduated, God had been preparing Joyce in specific ways for her career in teaching. Within three months of graduating, she served as a charge nurse on the same surgical floor where she had completed her student preceptorship. Then her love for adventure inspired her to spend a year as a travel nurse. “That was the best thing I ever did to prepare to be a teacher,” she says in retrospect. “I learned so much and obtained so many stories to tell to my students.”

Shortly after her travel-nursing stint, Joyce received the call from PCC, and shortly thereafter, accepted the job. However, she did not plan on staying very long. “I thought I’d fulfill that one contract and then I’d go back to ICU nursing, but the Lord had other plans. That was many years ago in 1988, and I am still teaching nursing students and I love it!”

“Teaching in a classroom is totally different than working in the hospital, as there is much preparation to present a large amount of essential material to the students,” she reveals. “Teaching has challenged me to dig, continuously learn, and to keep up to date with what is going on in the nursing field.” Joyce has kept up to date by earning two master’s degrees and a Doctorate in Nursing Education.

In the spring, Dr. Pate teaches undergraduate Pathophysiology and oversees the second-year Masters of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) graduate assistants as they teach a freshman pre-nursing course and instruct students in a clinical setting. In the fall, she teaches Developmental Psychology and General Psychology to junior nursing students, as well as Advanced Pathophysiology to first-year graduate M.S.N. students. In the summer, she teaches Testing and Evaluation to first year M.S.N. students. In addition, she has also taught Physical Assessment, Nursing Research, Nutrition, and Medical-Surgical Nursing I and II, as well as the graduate courses Curriculum Development and Teaching Nursing I over the years.

One of her favorite—and most challenging—aspects of the job is overseeing students as they get hands-on experience through clinicals. “Teaching at clinical is like going to work with your kids,” she jokes. “You have patients and students for which you are accountable. The students practice under my nursing license so I really have to be vigilant in knowing what each student is doing and that each procedure is done safely!”

As a teacher, Dr. Pate has had the flexibility to spend summers in a variety of ways including working as a critical care nurse, nursing home supervisor, camp nurse, and home health nurse.

Despite her earlier misgivings about teaching and her initial plan to leave after her first contract finished, Dr. Pate is thankful for the opportunity she has had to invest in her students’ lives over three decades as a faculty at PCC. “The Lord’s ways are not ours!” she said. “I’m grateful He is in control.”