Cathleen Shultz started nursing school six weeks after graduating from high school and has been in school or working ever since. Even as her role switched from student to instructor early on, she has not stopped learning. Her students in Harding University’s nursing program teach her more and more as time goes on, she said.
Shultz has served as the dean of the Carr College of Nursing since 1980, and effective June 1, she will step down from that position. She will take a yearlong sabbatical, starting in June, to work on some writing projects, then will return to Harding as a full-time professor of nursing.
Shultz graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. When she was in graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta, she was challenged to go to Harding University to help start a nursing program. She arrived at Harding in 1976 in time to work with the school’s first class of nursing students, who graduated in 1977. She has been at Harding ever since.
“Literally, I’ve taught every class that’s graduated from this program,” Schultz said. “We have attracted wonderful graduates from all over the country and world. They are very caring people and very smart, and they have done so much good work in the world.”
Shultz was only expecting to stay at Harding for a few years while the program lifted off, but circumstances changed that expectation. Her first husband died in a plane crash three years after the couple arrived in Arkansas, and Shultz said she knew it would not be a good idea to move during that time. Harding’s nursing program was still young, so she decided to stay with it.
Two years after her first husband’s death, Shultz met her current husband, Arkansas Children’s Hospital pediatrician Sam Shultz. The two married in 1983, and Shultz again decided to stay with Harding for a while.
The Shultzes do not have children of their own, but they have “informally adopted” 35 young adults who were either far from or otherwise disconnected from their own families. Now, from those informal adoptions, the couple also have 64 grandchildren ranging in age from newborn to graduate student.
“We were influenced strongly by a book called A Family Is a Circle of People Who Love You,” Shultz said.
The informal adoptions are extended to people in their late teens and early 20s and simply consist of a certificate and a loving, caring bond extended from the Shultzes.
“Sometimes people just need to talk and be nurtured,” she said. “It’s been a great thing. The book just encourages people to think outside the boundaries of what we know as ‘family.’”
Professionally, Shultz has made her impact at Harding, in Arkansas and throughout the nation through various roles. She has served as president of the National League for Nursing and the Arkansas State Board of Nursing. At Harding, she recently led the Carr College of Nursing into the new state-of-the-art Swaid Center.
The building was planned to serve as an educational facility and as a relaxing place for students to study and kick back while working through stressful classes and field-experience requirements. Classrooms have been sponsored by alumni and friends, indicated by plaques on the walls. Shultz’s name appears in several places throughout the building.
“I tell my students that the names at the doors and in the halls are people who support them,” she said. “Even if they’ve never met, these people care.”
Shultz’s view on learning is based on the concept of mutual respect between student and teacher. It is not a one-way street, and she said she has learned a lot from her students.
“Learning is reciprocal,” she said. “It’s an exchange of information and ideas. There is rarely a situation where I am with a student and I don’t learn from them, and they learn from me.”
The same goes for patients, Shultz said, adding that in nursing, there are so many new things that come out everyday that it is often a team of people — doctors, nurses and patients — who come together to get the job done.
“You operate in a very humbling experience,” she said. “If you care, you’ve got to understand you don’t have all the knowledge. Otherwise, you limit what could be done because you don’t value what that other person could bring to the table.”
Much like a proud parent, Shultz likes to brag on her students. She said the Harding Student Nursing Association is one of the largest chapters of the National Student Nurses Association. In April, they won several awards at the national convention, in addition to writing a policy statement that was accepted by the national delegation, Shultz said, and in 2012, they won the Stellar School Chapter Recognition, an honor that lasts for five years.
Looking forward, one of the projects Shultz will pursue during her sabbatical is to write a book with some of her colleagues about ethics in nursing practice.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or email@example.com.