New Faculty Profile: Get to know Lateefah Collingwood, PhD, NNP

Feb. 7, 2023

Meet University of Arizona College of Nursing Assistant Clinical Professor Lateefah Collingwood, PhD, NNP, who joined the college last semester. Originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dr. Collingwood earned her nursing degree at the University of the Virgin Islands School of Nursing before getting her master’s in education from Florida State University, her master’s in nursing at Northern Arizona University and her PhD from the University of Phoenix. She moved to Tucson in 1993 to join a neonatal practice as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) and has called the Old Pueblo home ever since. A dual passion for education and nursing has fueled her career journey, leading to years of experience both at the bedside and in the classroom – and a unique perspective on the importance of compassionate care.

What drew you to a career in nursing?

I always knew that I was going to work in the health care field. At first wanted to be a doctor, but I ended up going to nursing school and then nurse practitioner school. My draw was always to help people. I always feel like a nurturer in some way and so that was the field that aligned with my way of being.

We must approach nursing and healthcare in general from a place of empathy. You have to be able to meet them where they are and help them feel special because your job is to help them heal. I tell students ‘We’re not dealing with things; we’re dealing with people,'" ~ Lateefah Collingwood, PhD, NNP

What led you to your work in higher education?

In college I did a dual major because I always liked education. I did a nursing major, but I took education classes from the beginning all the way through grad school. When I worked as a nurse and then an NP, I did a lot of training within the hospital and moved my way up to work as the hospital’s education director.

Tell us about your passion for teaching.

I really like to bring students to the ‘Aha’ moment. Working in nursing, it’s so important to be passionate about developing new nurses, especially with the nursing shortage that we continually face. We need people who are interested in developing the workforce of the future. I tell my college students in the hospital, ‘One day, I’m going to be on the other side of the bedrail, and I want to make sure that the person that I’m looking up at knows what they’re doing. When I look up I want to be able to just exhale.’

What is your teaching philosophy?

My teaching/learning philosophy is centered around experiential learning, and it’s based on the fact that it’s a relationship that’s born between the teacher and the learner. I believe that learning has to be active for it to stick. I love creating learning environments where students get engaged and where you can take them from total confusion to ‘Oh, wow.’

How do approach your role as a mentor?

It depends on the student, of course, because you would like to meet the student where they are. I try to be the person that can meet the needs that the students have at the time and help them think a little bit more broadly. Sometimes it’s just about being an ear that will listen to them and give them sound advice.

What are your research interests?

I’m really interested in the transition of new nurses into the workforce. I’m also interested in patient safety. My dissertation was all about the perspectives of nursing leaders at all levels and their responsibility for keeping patients safe, but I want to spread that research out to nurses as well.

Can you tell us more about your dissertation?

Working in a hospital setting for over 30 years, I was always baffled by the fact that we have so many strategies in place to keep patients safe and yet they still get injured. When it came time to engage in research, I wanted find out what’s happening at an initial level and then dig deeper later to find out what’s really happening. I started with the people that were responsible for the unit just to get a sense of how they think about things. Who do they think owns safety?

I expected to find that the leaders would say It’s the responsibility of nurses at the bedside, but I did a qualitative study and what I found was that there was mutuality. They thought that every person that encounters a patient has some responsibility for keeping that patient safe. As leaders, they acknowledged that they believe we all share responsibility. However, we work in a very complex system with a lot of variables. While we’re all in agreement about patient safety, there are a lot of other factors that prevent us from being successful. The next phase of my research will be to discover whether nurses feel the same way that the leaders do. I want to know how nurses view their responsibilities for nursing for keeping patients safe in their care environment.

What advice do you have for students considering entering the nursing field?

When I encounter new students, I always talk to them about their purpose. I tell them that number one, you have to like people. Because you’re caring for people in their most vulnerable state. They don’t feel well. They’re coming into a hospital setting with strangers, so you’re going to do things for them that they used to be able to do for themselves. We must approach nursing and healthcare in general from a place of empathy. You have to be able to meet them where they are and help them feel special because your job is to help them heal. I tell students ‘We’re not dealing with things; we’re dealing with people.’ There’s a human being on the other side of every decision we make, every short cut we take. When we excel, there’s a human being on the other side of that excellent care that we give. Everything we do impacts a human being. We may not know them. They might be just Mr. Jones in Bed Two to us but there might be a sister, a child, a grandchild, a wife that’s very worried about them, so we need to look at the whole patient and do things for the patient as a whole being and not just give a shot or change a dressing.