In her 30+ years as a nurse, Beckie Balch, RN, MSN-Ed., has enjoyed a broad range of experiences in patient care. Starting out in the hospital setting as a labor and delivery nurse, she knew she’d found her passion and continued to pursue it. From supporting and caring for soon to be mothers at a 33-bed labor and recovery facility boasting 300+ deliveries a month to counseling and triage for a 10 physician OBGYN clinic, you could say Balch has a little experience in the field.
Asked about specialization in her nursing career, she says, “Most of my experience has been in labor and delivery and women’s health. So many people don’t really understand what nurses do, but if your heart's in it, there’s a nursing path for every person who wants to be a part of this amazing profession. There are so many different jobs in this field that you’re bound to find one that speaks to your passion for helping others and you can find a career you love!”
Just prior to accepting the instructor position at PTC, she served pregnant women, new mothers, and children through the Health Department’s “Children First” program. Advocating for patients to get them provider services and resources was extremely rewarding for Balch. “I was able to ensure overall wellness - from a healthy pregnancy and preparation for labor to mother and child health after birth. It was so rewarding to help educate new mothers and provide resources they may not have had otherwise.” It was from this experience that she transitioned to PTC to teach in the Practical Nursing program.
After nearly 20 years in patient care, she caught the bug to go into education full-time. “I’ve always taught something. I was teaching childbirth, early pregnancy, or sibling classes from the very start of my career. I actually don’t remember a time when I wasn’t teaching some kind of class in addition to my patient care duties.” Most recently, Balch has achieved her MSN-Ed (Masters of Science in Nursing) designation. She says, “I just love education and seeing the lightbulb come on for students.”
Mrs. B (as she’s known by her students) began teaching at PTC in 2008. For her, it was a natural transition from her high adrenaline work in labor and delivery to inspiring the next generation of nurses to step up and make their marks. “As you advance in your career, you don’t need or appreciate the stress as much as you might when you’re younger. I just realized that there’s no better way for me to give back to my profession than to teach people who will eventually be taking care of me and those I love.”
The Practical Nursing program had a particularly meaningful attraction for Balch. “My mom was an LPN and I grew up with an understanding of how she made a difference for her patients. There are usually multiple LPNs on a team in labor and delivery. As an RN on the floor myself, you know you can’t be everywhere all the time and you have to rely on your team. I wanted to teach the people who would be with the patients...the ones who are the primary support people.”
In a world where tele-medicine and remote interactions have become the norm, it turns out Beckie was ahead of her time. “I worked in an OB office of 10 doctors conducting tele-triage. Patients would call in about conditions and their pregnancy and I was able to either help or bring them in for an appointment to see a provider.” She understands the challenges brought about by a pandemic requiring limited in-person interaction. “That job required me to employ all the assessment skills I’d developed over the years. Since you can’t see the patient over the phone, you have to know the right questions to ask to properly assess the situation and make the right decisions.” Her students definitely benefit from her perspective as she brings that experience into the classroom.
As for teaching full-time, she quickly found confirmation that she’d made the right decision. “In my very first year, we had a student who had hearing challenges. She would study for hours, and was a great student, but she hadn’t yet built up her confidence. One day, she was able to put her knowledge into practice and inserted her first NG (Nasogastric) tube for a patient. As the contents of the patient's stomach were pumped out, she realized the difference she had made in that moment and said, ‘this patient is going to get better now because I did that.’ Her eyes lit up and that ‘aha’ moment still makes me smile today. Seeing that on my student’s face...when they start to connect the dots between what they did and making a real difference for a patient, that’s the absolute best.”
The advice she would give to her students (current and former) is, “Don’t stop! Let this be a stepping stone. If you want to be an LPN, that’s great and many people find their passion at this level and grow into amazing team members over time, but a lot of our students get into the field, get experience in a variety of settings and then go on to specialize - pursuing their RN and then BSN and even higher.”
When not in the classroom, supervising clinicals, or otherwise preparing students for their future, Beckie spends time with her family. “I have a wonderfully beautiful grandbaby and grandbabies are the best thing in the whole world. My family is the most important thing. For me it’s Brent and my boys. We have a granddaughter and are excited to welcome a grandson in February.” Beckie is married to Brent and they have two sons, Caleb and wife Deanna and their daughter Dansby (the beautiful grandbaby), and Josh and wife Aubry who expect Kinsler to make his debut in February. The Balch’s couldn’t be more excited!