Evening classes, expert faculty, and ‘gentle’ encouragement from Otterbein faculty helped shape Maggie Baker’s career. Learning to ride a motorcycle was her own decision.
Baker is Vice Associate Dean for Graduate Nursing Programs and an Associate Professor, Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems Department at the University Of Washington School Of Nursing. She received her master’s degree from Otterbein in 1997.
“I have fond memories of my time at Otterbein. I remember my first visit to Otterbein to see Dr. Eda Mikolaj and learn about their Master’s offerings. She was so welcoming! I knew I was in the right place,” Baker says.
“My graduate education at Otterbein was a crucial foundation for the rest of my career progression. I’m so thankful that I attended Otterbein!” Baker adds. “My focus on administration helped me to understand the business of healthcare. That knowledge has been critical in my work on the population and systems level and, currently, in my administrative position.
From Otterbein, Maggie moved to Seattle and earned her doctorate in Nursing Science in 2000 at the University of Washington. After graduating, she was a Senior Health Policy Analyst at the state capitol, working on health policy issues. In 2002, she returned to the UW School of Nursing first as a Project Director for a HRSA grant, and then moved into the research faculty ranks. She moved to a tenure track position and, in 2010, earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. This set of experiences allows Maggie to see the profession broadly and she offers this advice to other nurses.
“For people entering the profession at any age, I advise that they: practice excellent self-care; maintain a strong moral compass and conduct themselves in an ethical manner; create and sustain healthy work environments; be life-long learners; and have a balanced life outside of work, “she says and adds for those who seek an academic career, “There are opportunities to teach nursing in so many educational and clinical settings, so it is hard to give specific advice. My general advice is to decide where and/or what you would like to teach, talk with an experienced educator, and determine your path from there. Another suggestion I have is to find a mentor who can guide you throughout your time in this great career option.”
While some nurses hesitate to explore graduate school, Maggie offers straight-forward advice -- go for it!
“The hardest part for me was getting started. As a divorced mom of a very busy 10-year-old boy, a full-time administrator, and someone who was going to have to pay my tuition out-of-pocket, I perseverated on the ‘what if’ questions. After 17 years, I also was not confident that I could ‘cut it’ in graduate school. It was intimidating! I even thought about backing out on the first evening of classes! Luckily, a friend talked me out of it.”
“Once I got started, there was no going back. As soon as I started, the benefits of graduate education were apparent. I was not only able to apply what I was learning at Otterbein to my daily work experiences, but I also felt alive again. After years of doing everything for everyone else, I was finally doing something for me!“
“Earning a Master’s degree not only gave me more options, but was a stepping stone, for me, to a PhD. If I could give advice to anyone thinking of a pursuing a PhD, I would urge them to go while they are young; go BSN-to-PhD if at all possible. We need nurses entering doctoral programs early so that they have time to establish a solid program of research and many years to further their research. We need evidence for evidence-based nursing practice!”
She adds, “Graduate education can lead to expertise in leadership/administration, education, research, and other areas. It can also prepare nurses to be Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (as defined by the ARNP Consensus Model) clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives.”
“For many reasons, not the least of which is our aging population, there is a tremendous need for primary care providers, such as family, adult, and pediatric nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives. Increasing the number of NPs and CNMs is crucial if we are to meet population needs, especially the needs of vulnerable and underserved populations,” she counsels.
Maggie’s research focus, elder mistreatment, puts her in direct contact with two areas of high need – older adults and vulnerable populations. When asked what most surprises her about her research in elder mistreatment, she says, “To this day, I’m still surprised by how challenging it is! Elder mistreatment (abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable older adults by a “trusted other”) is a tremendous problem for some of our most vulnerable older adults, but it is not a funding priority for federal agencies at this time. Also, it is extremely difficult to gain access to vulnerable populations for research.”
Roadblocks aside, Maggie is committed to pushing ahead to gaining access to these extremely vulnerable adults for research. In the meantime, she is pursuing other approaches to study the problem and, hopefully, design and test interventions at the community level.
But back to that motorcycle…
When asked what she does for fun, Maggie reads, fosters sick rescue kittens, and rides motorcycles.
“I ride a Harley! When I turned 50, I decided that I had to do something exciting. So, I took a motorcycle safety course and learned to ride. The minute I started riding, I loved it. A year later, I purchased a BMW 1200 RT, the world’s best touring bike. On sunny days (the four that we have in Seattle every year), you can find me cruising country roads in the fresh air. On weekends and vacation, I take off on my touring bike for parts unknown. Last year, I clocked over 4300 miles in two weeks traveling through the astounding national parks from Glacier to Yosemite to the Redwoods. It’s my goal to be riding in my 90s!”