Corey follows calling to serve others to Lipscomb’s School of Nursing

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“Nursing never fails you. It’s always there.” — Ruth Corey

If there is anyone who knows nursing, it’s Ruth Corey. Every rank. Every possible academic degree.

And it hasn’t failed her in the more than 35 years since she felt called to pursue nursing as not just a profession, but as a vocation.

Corey’s pursuit of the calling that nudged her when she was a mother with young children at home has led her on a journey that prepared her opportunity-by-opportunity for the latest stop — Lipscomb University.

In June, Corey was appointed executive director of Lipscomb University’s School of Nursing, housed in the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.

“Dr. Corey’s breadth of experience, knowledge of the local nursing community and her faith-based approach to education will augment the strong foundation laid by the School of Nursing faculty and interim administrators during the last year and a half,” said Roger L. Davis, dean of the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. “Her passion for the nursing profession is contagious, and her vision for the Lipscomb nursing program will undoubtedly have an impact not only on our campus but in the Nashville community and beyond.”

Program enhancements implemented in 2015 and 2016 at the School of Nursing resulted in record high scores in the nursing licensing exam first-time pass rate.

Prior to her appointment at Lipscomb, Corey was director of nursing and academics at Marian University at Saint Thomas Health in Nashville. But to fully understand the depth to which Corey embodies nursing, one must take a look back at her journey.

'A calling'

Corey says she felt “the call of God” when deciding to pursue nursing as a career. She was a stay-at-home mother of two — daughter, Robin, and son, Daniel — in Longwood, Florida, about 27 miles southeast of Orlando, when she said she began to feel the call of nursing.

“I had a heart for nursing,” she says. “The thought of becoming a nurse just seemed to be brought to my attention over and over. I kept thinking this is how you can help people and really make a difference. It was a calling, and I do see it as a calling.”

As her youngest child approached the age to start school, Corey, who did not have a college degree at the time, listened to that nudge.

“Once I realized that was my calling, I went to school,” she recalls. “My son and I started school on the same day. He started pre-K and I started nursing school!”

In 1981, Corey enrolled in the Licensed Practical Nursing diploma program at Seminole State College.

“It was a little challenging at the time, but we worked it out,” says Corey. “My husband, Jerry, and I worked out the logistics. My husband is my biggest supporter.”

A journey

That foray into nursing launched Corey onto a journey that, well, she can describe best.

“I started out as an LPN, then I earned my two-year RN degree (registered nurse). After a few years, I obtained my Associate of Arts degree then entered an RN to BSN program earning my BSN. This degree allowed me to progress on into the MSN program where I received my nurse practitioner’s license. Finally, I obtained my terminal degree as a Doctor of Nursing Practice. So, as you can see, nursing has allowed me to acquire the education and degrees I needed to be where I am today,” she says.

“My experiences have given me a real understanding of what every level of nursing education looks like. I truly feel very confident that if a student comes to me with a question or a desire to reach a certain level, I will know exactly what they are talking about. I feel like that’s an advantage that I have. When an opportunity presented itself to me, God opened the doors, and I went through them. So, it’s been a lifelong process for me.”

Corey completed the Licensed Practical Nursing diploma program, the two-year Registered Nurse/ASN degree program and an Associate of Arts degree from Seminole State College and then a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Central Florida. For 11 of those years, while enrolled in college, Corey worked as an RN at Central Florida Regional Hospital.

While Corey worked as an adjunct professor in Seminole State’s ASN program, she completed her Master of Science in Nursing degree with an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) concentration at the University of Central Florida.

After completing her master’s degree, Corey worked as a family nurse practitioner for six years before joining the faculty at Daytona State College as professor of nursing. She next was appointed department chair and professor of nursing at Seminole State University.

Corey then had a unique opportunity to be a nursing research scientist at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida. She says she quickly fell in love with the research aspect of nursing. During this time, she returned to the classroom, earning her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Nova Southeastern University. She also served as an adjunct professor at Adventist University for a portion of that time.

“Each time I went to school I felt like I was learning so much and that I was growing,” she continues. “I firmly believed that I would be able to give back with everything that I learned. I became very excited about research. It gave me an opportunity to look at the gaps in health care. As a practitioner I saw a lot of gaps in health care, and it troubled me.”

The nursing research scientist role was one that Corey says she “would have probably continued in that forever.” But by this time her children were grown, and her daughter and her family, including a young grandson, had moved to Nashville. So Corey and her husband moved north to the Nashville area to be near them.

Nursing was there for Corey in her new hometown when, in 2015, she was appointed director of nursing and academics at Marian University at Saint Thomas Health. Then, she discovered that Lipscomb University was searching for an executive director of its School of Nursing.

“When I learned of the opportunity at Lipscomb, I felt that it was time for me to develop a relationship with a university on a more permanent basis where I could really grow and give back what I have learned all of these years,” says Corey. “I’ve learned so much. I feel that God has led me here. He provided me everything I needed. As I grow into this role and as I meet people on campus it’s even more confirmation that I’m supposed to be here. That’s a good feeling.”

A gold standard nursing program

Corey has big plans for Lipscomb’s program. In the future she says she would like to build a nursing research program, to encourage faculty to publish and to apply for grants.

“Those are the pieces that will take us to the next level,” she says. “My goal for this school is to be the gold standard of nursing in Middle Tennessee. We have everything going for us, and there is no reason we can’t be an example for others. If you attend this program you’re going to come out with everything you need to be an outstanding nurse. That’s our true goal.”

Nurses play a vital role in health care, Corey believes strongly. 

“Nurses are tasked with not only the normal day-to-day patient care, but they are with the patient 24-7. Patients rely very heavily on nurses. We look to our doctors of course. But nurses are a very valuable component of health care,” she says. “In our nation, the organization and business of health care is a big topic. With all of the changes we are seeing and hearing about in health care, nursing is a stable commodity. Nurses are that stabilizing factor on which you can count.

“So we want our nurses to be that person that everyone wants. Lipscomb nurses are very highly sought after, and they have a great reputation. We are going to build on that element.” Graduates of Lipscomb's School of Nursing enjoy a 100 percent job placement rate, as reported to the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Experts predict a major nursing shortage on the horizon with a need for nearly half a million nurses in the U.S. by 2022.

“We are working diligently to make sure we produce high-quality nurses who are able to function well in this complicated profession and fill those much-needed positions,” says Corey.

Being located in a “health care mecca,” Corey says the Lipscomb program is in an ideal location for students to gain experience in a variety of specialty areas and settings. She especially resonates with Lipscomb’s focus on serving the community.

“I love that aspect of the Lipscomb culture,” she admits, “and that is what we are supposed to do as nurses.”

And, as is her mantra, "nursing never fails you."

“The lovely thing about nursing is that you’re never too old to be a nurse,” she says. “I tell students nursing always gives back. If you want to grow, if you want to stay where you are, if you want more degrees, if you’re content with the degree you have, you can always serve people in the hospital and in the community. There are so many avenues that nursing touches these days, online, through the government, through all types of systems. So, nursing is a career that always gives back. It never fails you. Even when a nurse leaves the profession for an extended period of time, as long as they keep their licensure current, by taking the appropriate review courses, they can return to the profession.  Which only proves once again that nursing will never fail you.

“Nursing is a culture of giving. It never stops. It’s not about getting at all – it’s all about giving. This is why I am so excited to be a part of Lipscomb, a university that exemplifies the culture of giving.”

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