Professor Susan Tardiff has been working in the University of Maine’s School of Nursing since 2004, beginning as an adjunct faculty member. Six years after she started, she became a full-time faculty member. In addition to lecturing, she is the coordinator of admissions for transfer students into the nursing program and leads the UMaine international teams where she takes nursing teams to Central America.
Nursing has always been a part of Tardiff’s identity. Since the age of 15, Tardiff has been a nurse. She began as a “volunteer candy striper,” a term coined to describe the red and white pinafores that volunteer nurses typically wore. Her time working as a volunteer was also a part of a CNA program. From there, Tardiff has developed a lengthy portfolio of her nursing experiences.
“I … worked summers in a nursing home providing geriatric assistance. Through the years of having worked in many different areas and worked in many different roles, I have worked in pediatric, neuro, rehab, ortho, med-surg and the last 17 years of my clinical experience was in cardiac. I have been a staff nurse, resource nurse and charge nurse. I started working as a nurse educator as a C-clinical partner, which I enjoyed very much,” Tardiff said.
While she is not working at the school on Thursdays, when she works as a hospice nurse.
Tardiff’s nursing career has been very rewarding for her, so much that it has become hard to separate her career from her personal life.
“Many of the different changes in my career have also been influenced by my personal life and family needs. One of the most beneficial aspects of nursing is that there is always something that works well with personal and family life. When work is not going well it is difficult to separate it from my personal life. When work is going well it is part of my personal life as it is part of my identity,” Tardiff said.
Tardiff stresses the importance of “me time” for young nurses due to the demands that come with the nursing profession.
“I believe that it is however important to have self-care time and to put your work aside. It has taken some time to really figure that part out,” Tardiff said.
When she is not practicing, Tardiff clears her head by painting watercolors and playing the piano. Her favorite thing to do outside of nursing is to ride her motorcycle on long three or four day trips with no specific destination in mind. However, this is not the safest in the winter season, so she turns more to watercoloring.
From her time working at UMaine, some of her favorite moments have been with the students.
“I find it incredibly rewarding when I have encouraged a student who has given up on nursing and then later to see them get their nursing pin. I also find it rewarding to see students that have worked so hard achieve their goals. My favorite part is knowing that in even the smallest way I have helped students become nurses,” Tardiff said.
She inspires the students with her own stories, hopefully encouraging them to work hard and develop a love for learning.
“Education is ongoing. Your academic journey at the university is just the start. Everything you learn is relevant, even if you don’t apply it at the moment, it will be relevant in the future… Even after 38 years of being a nurse, I am still learning, taking tests and I am required to demonstrate competency,” Tardiff said.
Being able to remember that it is important to care for yourself while you care for others is crucial to not just prospective nursing students, but for other students as well who are working towards a stressful, yet fulfilling career.
“My advice: master the skills of time management, organization, self-care and develop a passion for learning. Use these skills in your professional and personal life,” Tardiff said.