By Jack Haller
With Dr. Kimberlin Zelinsky’s wide range of involvement in nursing, she has learned countless lessons that she hopes to pass on to her students, connecting with them on a deeper level.
After some time in critical care and a cardiac cath lab, Zelinsky discovered her love for teaching as an adjunct clinical instructor on the side. She would then complete her MSN from Ferris State University (’15) to become a full-time teacher. She is now an assistant professor of nursing in Reinhardt University’s Cauble School of Nursing & Health Sciences.
Zelinsky holds her own experiences close to her heart as she guides the next generation of nurses.
After finding her passion for teaching, she has found another angle of nursing that would’ve never been uncovered without her discovery. Through her compassion for others, she discovered teaching could bring her the same gratitude nursing does and wanted to extend her knowledge forward to others so they can experience that same feeling.
“As a new nurse, I was adamant that I would never leave my role of directly caring for patients in the hospital. Through teaching, I have found the same rewarding feeling,” said Zelinsky. “I have also learned the truth in what we teach our students: the profession is far bigger and more diverse than just caring for the sick and injured in the hospital.”
Zelinsky came to Reinhardt in 2018 and completed her doctoral project in conjunction with Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and Reinhardt University as she earned her Doctorate in Nursing through Indiana Wesleyan University.
Since becoming an eagle, Zelinsky discovered a course that stands out above the rest in her eyes. In Nursing Care of the Adult, students receive hours of exposure to real-world scenarios that shape them as nurses, showing them an entirely new understanding of the field.
“When they start the class, they have had only a few days exposure to the hospital setting. From the moment they enter nursing school, it is as if they are picking up puzzle pieces that are scattered around. They aren’t able to put them together yet, and often don’t even know what the final product will look like.”
Throughout the course, Zelinsky spends 12-hour days with small groups of her students in the hospital on a weekly basis. She values this part of the course the most, as she sees it as a profound time of transformation.
“They begin to apply what they are learning in class. They gain the confidence to talk to their patients. Students often share
in their journal how gratified they are to begin to feel like a contributing member of the healthcare team. They really begin the process of putting the pieces together.”
Zelinsky credits a large part of her success to her professor at the University of Kentucky, Gina Lowry, who reassured her when she felt insecure about her performance.
“Ms. Lowry pulled me aside one day and simply asked, ‘Do you know you are good at this?’ I froze. I realized in that moment that I had been so preoccupied with proving something, with trying to reach some sort of perfection and get some sort of recognition, that I had not really allowed myself to fully engage in the experience. Thus, I had not begun to reach my potential. This reassurance from her allowed me to ask the questions I needed to ask, to really connect with my patients and to learn at a deeper level.”
Because of this conversation, Zelinsky centers her teaching style around immersing herself into the minds of her students, attempting to find any insecurities that may hold them back. She hopes students leave her class feeling ready to tackle what once seemed impossible.
“Of course, I want students to learn complex concepts, and to learn how to treat people with compassion. Those are the common goals of nursing educators.
Another thing has really become clear to me, however. I want students to be empowered. They often enter my class or clinical with doubts about their ability to succeed. My students often comment on the high rigor of my courses, but they seem to feel a sense of victory when they finish. This is how they will really touch lives as nurses.”
When Zelinsky is away from work, she enjoys spending time with her husband Nick and two kids, Nicholas and Ava. She also loves cooking for them, camping and hiking, traveling, especially to Disney, reading and running.