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Nurse Educator of the Year: Bowman native finds love of nursing, educating

NDSU's Kolby Schaeffer-Fraase was named Nuse Educator of the Year by the Student Nursing Association of North Dakota. Submitted photo1 / 2
Kolby Schaeffer-Fraase was named Nurse Educator of the Year by the Nursing Student Association. NDSU photo2 / 2

Bowman native Kolby Schaeffer-Fraase, who teaches nursing at North Dakota State University, was recognized by the Nursing Student Association of North Dakota as Nurse Educator of the Year.

Before she began teaching at NDSU in 2015, Schaeffer-Fraase worked as a nurse. She didn't always know she wanted to be a nurse or an educator.

"It was kind of a roundabout thing for me," she said. "It wasn't something that I knew when I was little."

Schaeffer-Fraase said she comes from a farmer/rancher/small business background. There are no other nurses in her family, but experience with one ailing family member would later kindle into a passion for nursing.

"I was a fourth grader when my grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. ... I knew that I could be there to help her when she got out of the hospital, so I spent many afternoons after school helping to care for her and helping her around the house," she said. "It's really such an honor to be able to help somebody in whatever way that you can, to help provide comfort. That was something that kind of stuck with me when I grew up."

Schaeffer-Fraase's senior year of high school, she took certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technician courses, igniting her passion for nursing.

"That really sparked my interest in medicine," she said. "Everything kind of came together and the stars aligned."

Still, until the day of her freshman orientation at NDSU, she was declared an athletic training and dietetics double major.

"It wasn't until I was in the car, and I was driving to Fargo (that) I looked at my dad, and I said, 'You know, I think I want to be a nurse.' He goes, 'Oh, thank goodness!'"

Schaeffer-Fraase came to be a nurse educator in the same way, with little experiences that opened her eyes to something she loved.

When she graduated with her bachelor's degree, she intended to become a nurse practitioner.

"I entered practice and I went 'Oh my gosh. I love bedside nursing. I never want to leave this. This is so awesome,'" she said. "I found that I really enjoyed teaching my patients and their families about the procedures or the medications and what was going on for the day, and I really enjoyed working with nursing students that were there for their clinical rotations or on practicum or doing internships. That's what kind of started nudging me to look at getting my master's degree in nursing education."

Schaeffer-Fraase said teaching is rewarding.

"It's incredibly rewarding to be an educator and to be able to share my passion for nursing but to also watch our students grow and become leaders," she said. "They find their passion and the type of nursing they want to pursue, and to watch their professional growth is something I honestly can't put into words."

Though she is now teaching, she still works as a registered nurse in Fargo.

"It's my perfect little balance ... I can have the best of both worlds," she said.