Dexter resident Karen Howatt has always had a fondness for helping others. As a clinical adjunct instructor for Jackson Community College's nursing program, she is living her dream.
“It’s very rewarding, and it feels good to help,” she said.
Howatt teaches Fundamentals of Nursing in the Kresge Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center at the Chelsea Retirement Community in Chelsea. The class teaches new nursing students basic care, how to take health histories, read charts, conduct assessments, safe medication administration, how to give injections, dress wounds and more.
"It’s a win-win situation," Howatt said. "The students enjoy working with the residents and helping CRC staff, and the residents enjoy the extra attention and helping play a part in educating the students."
One of her favorite parts of teaching is watching students grow, she said.
“The first couple of weeks, they are scared to walk into a patient’s room and talk to them, and they shake visibly when they do things for the first time. I try very hard to create an environment that promotes learning in a safe and supportive way," Howatt said.
"I constantly remind them I’m here to teach them. I don’t expect them to know everything.
“They have such unrealistic ideas that just because they heard something in lecture, they should now be experts," she said. "This is challenging to overcome, but once I do, the real learning can take place. I’ve found this approach works very well to help them relax and learn."
Howatt, an Ann Arbor native and graduate of Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Hope College in Holland then earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Wayne State University. She is currently studying for her master’s degree in nursing from Walden College.
Howatt has worked as a registered nurse at the University of Michigan Hospital for 14 years.
“I love being a nurse,” she said. “It’s rewarding in that there is so much nurses can do. Nursing is a great field; it has so many options, from working in the hospital to community health nursing. There’s a fit for so many different interests.
“Nursing is also pretty family-friendly, other than working on holidays and weekends," she said. "Not many careers allow you to adjust your work to meet your life demands."
Howatt said nurses are in high demand right now.
“The future of our U.S. health care system will rely more heavily on nurses than ever before. As we struggle to develop a health care system that will provide health care to the entire population, we will need to think more proactively — emphasizing health promotion and preventative care — and nurses will take care of the majority of that kind of care," she said.
Howatt has called Dexter home for 12 years, where she and her husband Stan have raised their three sons and a daughter.
“I love Dexter’s small-town atmosphere,” she said. “One of my best early memories after moving here is a Memorial Day parade and candy being thrown. I like the sense of community.”