Ulster BOCES Instructor Inspiring Next Generation of Nurses

Ulster BOCES Instructor Inspiring Next Generation of Nurses

For the last 13 years, Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center graduate and Adult Education Nursing instructor Louise Bigando has been fulfilling the mission of Ulster BOCES by teaching and inspiring the next generation of nurses. She now has her sights set on working to attract more talented people to the profession. Bigando says, "What I took from Ulster BOCES as a student is that when you're a lifelong learner you foster growth – growth in independence, intelligence, income, and leadership."

Bigando knew she wanted to become a nurse when she was in elementary school shortly after meeting the school nurse, Emily Johnson. Ms. Johnson, who also served on the Ulster BOCES Board of Education, would later become a great influence on Bigando's future. "I probably was down in the nurse's office more often than I should have been, but I enjoyed hanging out with her. She had the answers for every ailment and a Band-Aid for every type of cut," says Bigando jokingly, adding, "She was a great role model for the nursing profession."

But getting into the nursing field took some time. In high school, Bigando had the opportunity to take classes at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center, where she studied cosmetology. After she graduated from high school, she returned to Ulster BOCES through the Adult Career Education program and enrolled in the Practical Nursing (PN) course. Once in the PN program, she remembers, she discovered a new sense of purpose because she finally felt like she was pursuing her true passion.

Upon completion of the PN program, Bigando enrolled in Ulster County Community College (now SUNY Ulster), where she received her Associate of Science degree and graduated with distinction. In 1999, she became a licensed Registered Nurse (RN).

Bigando credits her desire to continue her education to the amazing foundation she received at Ulster BOCES. "Ulster BOCES instructors taught me to always be ready for the next level," Bigando recalls.

After working in the healthcare field for five years as well as continuing with her own education, Bigando had an epiphany. "Nursing is not just about doing what the doctor says and doing what the patients need, but it's also about teaching patients and empowering them to take control of their own healthcare needs," she says. Bigando felt a deep connection with the teaching aspect of the profession.

That's when she began to think about becoming a nursing educator. "Nursing educators have the opportunity to shape the next generation of nursing leaders, influence policies, and assist healthcare institutions," she says.

In 2004, Bigando accepted her first teaching job at Ulster BOCES. She continued to work while pursing her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from the University of Phoenix.

At Ulster BOCES, Bigando has co-taught in the high school Career & Technical Center's Nursing Assistant program and the Health Occupations Exploration Program (HOEP). She also teaches PN to adult learners at the Adult Career Education Center.

Ulster BOCES Director of Adult Education and Grant Development & Maintenance Mary Jalloh says, "Louise brings to the classroom her experiences as both a student and instructor here. This is a great support for our students, as she understands clearly what they need to know to be successful in the nursing profession. She is an asset for our adult and high school students."

The Director of the Career & Technical Center, Marita Kitchell, says, "Ms. Bigando is a very versatile employee. She has shown herself to be a team player by supporting lead teachers, being detail-oriented, and she is always professional. It was a win-win to recruit her."

Bigando is currently taking classes through SUNY New Paltz for her School Building and School District Leader certificates. She says she wants to get into administration because she wants to have an even bigger impact on the nursing profession.

"There is currently a shortage of nurses throughout the healthcare field. And I want to help change that," Bigando adds. "The greater your knowledge base, the greater the stockpile of solutions you will have to overcome challenges and help move things forward."

"I still believe nursing is a great field to get into," Bigando says. "It can provide a person a variety of job options such as public health, school nursing, oncology, emergency nursing, or nursing informatics. You really are only limited by your own individual sense of adventure and willingness to learn and grow. Right now, my heart is telling me I am up for more adventures. Based on my work experience, I have a deep desire to advocate for all students."

Louise Bigando helps a student.