Nicole Giancaterino, DNP, MSN, CNS/APN, RNC-OB, is a curriculum and instruction specialist at Chamberlain College of Nursing, and credits much of her career success to her long-standing membership in the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) and her lifelong commitment to living out its mission of service, leadership and scholarship.
When Giancaterino reflects back on her induction to STTI, she remembers feeling humbled and honored. “At the time, I thought about what the future held for my career as a nurse and how I could make a positive impact on the field,” she says.
Giancaterino began her career as a labor and delivery nurse in the obstetrics department at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. She quickly moved up the ranks to charge nurse and clinician, but continued her education. She earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from St. Xavier College in Chicago, and obtained an additional license as an advanced practice nurse; and, last year, earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from Rush University in Chicago.
“As nurses, we are committed to a lifetime of learning,” says Giancaterino. “I was confident that taking the steps to advance my education would strengthen my perspective of the healthcare system, and thus refine the level of care I deliver and enhance patient outcomes.”
In addition, Giancaterino’s continued education provided her with an opportunity to instill her clinical and theoretical knowledge on the next generation of nurses. “A critical piece of nursing is understanding each patient has a unique story to tell,” she says. “Through my role as an educator, I’ve emphasized to students that establishing a bond with patients is essential to breaking down barriers. This focus on patient-centered care is what leads to more effective care plans and improved outcomes.”
“Inspiration to achieve your education and career goals is everywhere,” Giancaterino explains. “You just need to keep your eyes and ears open.”
Discovering Continued Inspiration through Motherhood
Giancaterino has uncovered career inspiration outside of nursing, and it comes in the form of her children – 10-year-old Hayley and 8-year-old Ryan. Last year, she had the opportunity to share how they influenced her career when she delivered a keynote speech to inductees of the Phi Pi Chapter of STTI at Chamberlain’s Addison, Illinois campus. Her remarks were published in the STTI magazine, Reflections on Nursing Leadership.
“I never realized the parallels between my children’s small acts of kindness and STTI’s mission, and how they motivated me and propelled me toward my goals of positively impacting healthcare and the next generation of nurses.”
Giancaterino says seeing her children unknowingly exemplify STTI’s pillars of service, leadership and scholarship serves as a constant reminder to continue to carry out STTI’s mission in her daily life through compassionate care for others.
Service: Act of helping or doing work for someone
STTI encourages nurses to serve others in their community through volunteer work, raising money for charity or participating in career day at a local school.
Giancaterino has watched her daughter exemplify service through her participation in running road races that benefit different charities. “Hayley turned her passion for running into an opportunity to help others in her community. She has raised funds for animal shelters, children’s cancer and wounded veterans of war.”
Similarly, Giancaterino has taken her passion for nursing into the community by helping her daughter’s Girl Scout troop earn their first-aid patches and participate in career discovery days at her children’s school. In addition, Giancaterino has volunteered to take blood pressure screenings at her church.
Leadership: Act or instance of leading, offering guidance or direction
“Patients need nurse leaders who will take the lead in advocating for them,” Giancaterino explains. “We have the ability to stand up for patients and provide information that empowers them to make decisions that can shape their healthcare and treatment plans. In today’s healthcare landscape, the delivery of care is rapidly changing, meaning nurses must use their voice and unique position at the bedside to be advocates for patients and share important details that can positively influence these care plans.”
Giancaterino recalls a time her daughter reached out to a girl who was struggling to make friends at camp, taking the lead to include her in camp activities. “The young girl had put up walls because she felt it was easier to push others away,” she notes. “It takes initiative to do a hard thing, but once Hayley asked the fellow camper to play, she broke down those walls and the girl had more positive experiences with her camping peers.”
Giancaterino says all nurses must identify opportunities to reach out, lead and guide others. “Don’t wait to be asked; offer to help,” she explains. “A new challenge can be the catalyst for advancing within your career or improving a patient’s well-being.”
Scholarship: Knowledge resulting from study and research in a particular field
STTI emphasizes the importance of scholarship, and Giancaterino credits her own continued education with bolstering her confidence, giving her the tools to advance within her career, and enabling her to impart knowledge on future nurses. She says fear is often all that stands in the way of moving toward a goal.
“I hear nurses say earning an advanced degree is intimidating or too difficult,” she explains. “There is so much power in knowledge, so I tell students not to let fear become a roadblock to success.”
Giancaterino’s son Ryan meticulously studies hockey games and techniques. He is determined to one day become a professional hockey player.
“He’s always saying, ‘When I’m in the pros one day,’” she says. “To him, failure isn’t an option. His fearlessness and optimism are contagious, and his passion reminds me that anything is possible, as long as you believe in yourself.”
Giancaterino hopes her demonstration of the three pillars of STTI’s mission, inspired by the actions of her children, encourages student nurses to achieve their education and career goals.
“In my role at Chamberlain, I feel fulfilled seeing students and alumni join me in advancing our profession,” she says. “After all, the opportunities for nurses are endless.”
How do you exemplify service, leadership and scholarship in your everyday life?