The Professor Is In

College of Health Professions Professor Elizabeth Berro discusses The Walking Dead, what she values most in her students, and more in the latest Professor Is In. >>Read More

College of Health Professions Elizabeth Berro, RN, PNP, gives insight into how her enthusiasm for education over the years has influenced her. Her love for nursing is evident and transcends to the classroom where she teaches classes from pharmacology to “Pathophysiology in Entertainment Media.” Professor Berro began her nursing career as staff nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit at The New York Hospital and has been a full-time faculty member since 2006. You can find her on the Westchester Campus in the classroom, or advising her students and helping them pursue their personal and professional goals in nursing.

What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?
Not surprisingly, my favorite class was biology. I love science—well, not all sciences. I really enjoy life sciences. My least favorite class I’d have to say was chemistry so I can really empathize with students who dislike chemistry, not because of the didactic portion of the class but because of the lab. I actually had to retake chemistry in school because of the lab portion of the class. I took a chemistry class where a graduate student taught the lab portion and he gave me a C I think because he thought that would be considered a passing grade so I wouldn’t have to retake the lab. In my nursing program though, you needed a C+ as a passing grade so little did he know, I’d be back to take the course over again.

What one thing or person made you passionate about your current career?
It wasn’t really a person but more of an experience—a clinical experience—that made me passionate about my career. I was part of a nursing school that had a “diploma program.” It was a three year program and I was able to work directly with patients almost immediately. I really benefited from my clinical experiences working with patients in a hospital environment.

What quality do you most value in your students?
It’s an intellectual curiosity. That if they hear something they don’t know, or are learning something that they’d be curious about it and want to learn “why.” That is what made my clinical practice interesting. I asked myself “why” I was doing something, and why it worked like that. Whether it was the human body and why someone felt a specific symptom or whether it was a piece of equipment I worked with I always asked “why?” I worked for a long time in intensive care so there was a lot of equipment and I was always curious about how it worked and why it worked that way. And that is what makes my job interesting. Sometimes I feel like a three year old asking “why?”, “why?”, “why?”, but that’s what has made my experiences interesting.

What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
I think there is a balance between making sure you’re having a good time, meeting people and also [deciding] if nursing is what you want and making sure that you succeed in reaching your academic goal. Keep your eye on the ball, decide what you want, and make sure you get that accomplished and establish and create a support [network] to do that. Often that entails surrounding yourself with a lot of other nursing students— and that is helpful— but I also think you should make sure you are exposed to people who are not in the nursing program. That’s a nice thing to do because people in the nursing program tend to be insular because they tend to study all day long and for [many] hours. It’s hard to get out of that circle or group of people and so I think trying to extend friendships and support outside that group is something I would recommend. I also think taking advantage of both our campuses is important. We also have a wonderful New York City Campus. Take advantage of both campuses and enjoy both environments.

If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
I’m not exactly sure what the profession would be but I think I would like to have done something that involved more travel—maybe a nursing career that involves more travel. Those opportunities are there for people who want to travel. I’d like something that involves seeing a bit more of the world. I think anything solo is very difficult. Being a novelist I think would be a very difficult. It requires so much discipline and solitary work. Writing is a tough profession to begin with, a tough task that requires so much revision and to be so detail oriented. Authors who work on their novels for three, four, five, ten years… it seems like such a long, arduous process, and such a lonely process, and I don’t think I would want to do something that is so lonely.

What is your favorite book/TV show?
My favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

I have two favorite TV shows. One is not running anymore but it’s House. One of my favorite classes I teach is called “Pathophysiology in Entertainment Media,” where we look at different diseases and how they’re presented in the media, TV, movies and plays and they can be presented in any way. Sometimes we look at House. I am a bit of a House Junkie. I just consulted on a play to make sure that it is relatively consistent with being accurate. That whole issue of trying to portray diseases and disorders in an accurate way is very intriguing to me. There are times when they are [portraying diseases incorrectly] because they need to move the plot along so the disease will move along more quickly or more slowly or they’re emphasizing a symptom for the plot. I can understand and appreciate it. Sometimes when they’re just wrong that annoys me. When they could have just as easily used a different disorder to get to the same end does get aggravating.

My current favorite show is The Walking Dead. It gave me nightmares last season and I swore I wouldn’t watch it again and I’m back to watching it. The nightmares have not started up again.

What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
I have to admit right now I would end up working. It’s been a really busy semester catching up after the hurricane. Our students are a little behind and our classes are a little behind. We’ve been doing some simulations which use high-tech mannequins to create an environment for our students like a real clinical setting and we’ve used a lot more of that this semester compared to other semesters in the past so we have taken on a big project. That combined with the backlog of work because of the hurricane has made this semester a little trying. So I would take the extra hour and play catch-up and make sure I was available for the students.

What is your favorite journey/experience?
This past summer I went with my husband and my two kids to London and that was a fun event. My kids are 19 and 16 so they are great ages and everybody could fully appreciate the trip. We all were busy the whole time and everyone went places they really wanted to go. It was a perfect trip.

What is your favorite saying/words to live by?
One thing I say that sometimes gets me into trouble (but probably gets me out of trouble more than into trouble) is “action is better than inaction.” So when I’m doing something or when I’m worried, I try to do something about it. Sometimes it gets me into a little bit of trouble because I sometimes do things without thoroughly thinking them through, but a majority of the time I end up in a better place, rather than sitting, and worrying and thinking about it. I’m a person who wants to get up and do something. “Action is better than inaction” in almost anything.

If you could have any five people, living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
I think I would have all of my closest friends from different points of my life all together at dinner. I would have my closest grade school friend, my closest high school friend, my closest college friend, my closest friend from when my children were infants, and my closest friend now. That is who I would have all together.

Written by Pace student Sarah Aires ’14