Joan is one of four MacEwan faculty members being honoured in 2018 for outstanding teaching and commitment to education leadership. 

Joan Mills receives Distinguished Teaching Award

October 12, 2018 | Health
I love taking complicated concepts and making them simple. I borrow a lot of silly analogies when I teach. I compare flushing toilets to a cardiac cell’s ability to respond to a stimulus. I act out abnormal cardiac rhythms – my arms are the atria and my legs are the ventricles. I look like an idiot and I don’t care.

What really matters is seeing the light bulbs go on for my students. When I see students in an exam mimicking what I have done in class, I know they get it. It’s unexpected and kind of comical, but it has a purpose, because the often complex concepts and ideas those students are learning are really important.

Knowing how lung disease impairs oxygen getting to our cells or understanding what an abnormal cardiac rhythm looks like builds foundational layers of knowledge. And at the end of the day, those layers are what help us take care of people. The little things really do matter – in the classroom and at the bedside.

It’s why I decided to tell the story of helping a frail, elderly man with terminal colon cancer get a good night’s sleep when I was asked to speak at the spring convocation ceremonies. Listening as he mentioned preferring to sleep on his stomach, and deciding to help make that happen for him at a time when the unwritten rules said not to has always stuck with me. The man died two weeks later, and I believe that small thing made a difference for him during those last days.

Small actions really can have a big impact. Instead of carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, stop and think about what you can do to make the day better for the person in front of you. It’s advice I take to heart too – I try to care for my students in the same way I hope that they will care for patients. We all deserve respect and kindness.

– Joan Mills, Faculty Member with the Centre for Professional Nursing Education and Assistant Professor in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program

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