Robin Gates, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, has over 24 years of experience as a nurse, 22 of which were in nurse leadership positions. From serving as an RN in the emergency department and labor and delivery, to director of transitional care and senior clinical manager, her time as a nurse enables her to share her experiences with her students and prepare them for their future careers.

“Leadership experience in various health care environments provides my ability to empower the next generations of nurses to understand the medical system for nursing practice wholistically,” said Gates. “Nurses are change agents. We are a pivotal part of a multidisciplinary team. I emphasize to nursing students their role in the community, corporations, hospitals, clinics, telehealth, home care and hospice, insurance, government and so on.”

Gates knew early on she wanted to be a nurse because of the kind nurses and physicians she experienced as a child. She decided to pursue nursing because she is “passionate about supporting patients in achieving the best health outcomes.” It was that passion that fueled her desire to transition to teaching students. “After hiring more than one hundred nurses throughout my career and providing education as a nurse leader, it was a natural next step in my career to want to educate students interested in entering nursing within academia.”

At MSOE, Gates teaches “Community Nursing” and “Nutrition” courses to undergraduate students and “Economics and Operations” to graduate students. Even though she’s the one doing the teaching, her favorite part is learning from her students. “They are so innovative and inspirational. They keep me young and on my toes! I love when they stimulate me to critically think about how I am delivering topics, discussions, activities and lectures. No matter how knowledgeable I think I am, they provide me with current health care experiences in their roles as nurse externs on the frontlines during this pandemic. They have provided me with additional information and new ideas which make our nursing practice better in the future.”

MSOE strives to provide students with experiential learning experiences, and Gates is always finding new ways for nursing students to learn hands-on in the community. One way she achieves this is through her involvement with Prevent Blindness, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children, adults and families through early detection of eye conditions to prevent blindness and preserve sight. Through Prevent Blindness, Gates and student volunteers offer vision screenings to preschoolers and grade school children in the greater Milwaukee area. Gates also serves on the Prevent Blindness Program Committee to discuss challenges and possible solutions for the underserved within the community for ongoing vision exams after initial vision screening.

Providing experiential learning experiences became a challenge at the beginning of the pandemic when nursing students were not allowed in hospitals. Gates got creative and developed the “phone pal” project with Associate Professor April Pellmann in March 2020. Through the project, junior-level nursing students called Sisters of St. Francis Assisi to support them with conversation and companionship over the phone. Gates explained the goal of the project was to decrease feelings of depression and isolation during quarantine, and to ensure the Sisters knew MSOE nursing students valued the seniors in the community. “Little did we know how much the Sisters in turn supported our students with inspiring stories for the past, their faith, education and hopes for the future.”  

Like her students, Gates continues to learn and build upon her skillsets. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University. In addition to teaching courses at MSOE, she adds valuable insight as a member of the Faculty Senate, Faculty Council, Raider Return Task Force and BSN CAP.