Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with Elaine Musselman

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


Elaine Musselman, RN, PhD, CNE, is an assistant professor of nursing and associate director of the School of Nursing. A specialist in pediatrics, she has been at SF State for five years.

Elaine MusselmanHer journey as a nurse began when she was a little girl admiring her mother, whose dedication to her career as a med-surg float nurse inspired Elaine to follow in her footsteps. It wasn’t until she was working on her master’s that Elaine had the opportunity to teach undergraduate nursing students in an associate degree program and fell in love with teaching. From that moment on, she found her calling by combining her love of nursing with her love of teaching. Elaine came to SF State in 2012 and received her PhD from Rutgers University in 2014. She says, “For nurses, a lot of what we do is teaching. We educate new students, we teach each other, we educate patients and families.”

Q. What is your favorite subject or class to teach?

A. I like teaching the undergraduate pediatrics courses. I know it’s not for everybody, but I like to give the opportunity to show how [pediatrics] can be fun and rewarding. Pediatrics can be sad — incredibly sad sometimes — but there are also so many good times, and we work so hard to keep kids healthy and out of the hospitals. To me, it’s a great area of specialization. So I really like it when students get excited about the subject.

Q. What do you look for in a nursing student that gives you the hint that they would be well suited for pediatrics?

A. Somebody that can really manage getting to the kid’s level but also be able to deal with the parents. Someone who can really cross that line, speaking knowledgeably but also being able to speak at the different age levels – like, how do you speak to a three-year-old but also speak to the parents. You have to be able to explain rather than quoting from the book. Really enjoying the management of all those different age groups and how best to work with them, without being too excitable since you need to keep kids a little calmer. Being able to have fun while you’re still being serious.

Q. Do you have any special memories you sometimes find yourself thinking about or a particular experience?

A. My favorite memories as a nurse were while working at Boston Children’s Hospital, where the whole focus was on pediatrics. Everything was oriented toward the children and supporting them. We had children from all over the world who came for open heart surgery, as we were the only hospital performing this surgery for children in the ’80s. The success rate for the surgery wasn’t very high at the time, but we supported each other, encouraged each other, and celebrated every success together as a team. In my role as a professor, I tell my students that the most important thing to consider when deciding where to start their career is the culture of the unit or hospital. Making sure the environment supports their continued learning as well as their emotional health and well-being.

Q. Is there a movie, TV show, or a book that you would recommend?

A. I love books, so I would recommend “When Breath Becomes Air,” by Paul Kalanithi. It's a medical book where a neurosurgical resident at Stanford is diagnosed with lung cancer, writes about his experience, and had his wife publish it after he had passed. I also recommend books by Jodi Picoult: “The Pact,” “My Sister’s Keeper” and “Handle with Care.”