The compassion and dedication of a Mercer University College of Nursing alumna has gained the attention of the DAISY Foundation, which recently presented her with one of its prestigious awards. Dr. Katie Morales, an experienced nurse who graduated from the College’s Ph.D. program in 2017, was chosen as an honoree for the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses in May.
Through the DAISY Award, the nonprofit DAISY Foundation recognizes nurses who “provide extraordinary care not only with their brains but also with their hearts,” according to the foundation’s website. DAISY stands for Diseases Attacking the Immune System.
Dr. Morales, of Rome, Georgia, has been a nurse off and on in acute care settings since 1985. Wanting to be as prepared as possible in her career, she enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Mercer’s College of Nursing at the recommendation of her colleagues at Berry College, where she was on the nursing faculty at the time.
“I saw the most growth in myself after getting my Ph.D., but it also caused me to do a five-year plan,” said Dr. Morales, who left Berry College to take a tenure-track position with the Tanner Health System School of Nursing at the University of West Georgia three years ago. “It opened up a lot of doors. Now I’m doing research in addition to teaching.”
At the University of West Georgia, she teaches at the undergraduate and graduate levels as an associate professor of nursing. She is poised to receive full tenure status in a year and a half.
Dr. Morales teaches research and evidence-based practices to undergraduate students, as well as quantitative methods and philosophical foundations of education to Doctor of Education in Nursing Education students. She also serves on the undergraduate research committee and Institutional Review Board. Her own research focuses on other clinical setting topics such as health care-associated infections and dementia care.
Also the student success coordinator for the UWG School of Nursing, she prepares students for benchmark exams, provides remediation after exams, and compiles aggregate reports for faculty. Outside her roles at the University of West Georgia, she does legal nurse consulting work.
Dr. Morales said she strives to create a classroom environment where students want to engage with the topic.
“My biggest passion in student success is trying to develop these self-regulated learners,” she said. “You can lead a horse to water, but how do you make them drink? How do we make students thirsty? That’s been my focus: How do I get the students to desire to learn? The deep learning comes in the struggle.”
She enjoys seeing students discover the value of what they learn in class and learning what former students are doing for their careers now. For example, one of her former students is now a nurse practitioner at the doctor’s office she goes to, and another former student is shadowing her as a Ph.D. nursing student. She’s proud of her students and loves these “full-circle moments” of her career, she said.
Dr. Morales is proud that she will be inducted into the Mercer College of Nursing’s Hall of Honor this fall in recognition of her excellence in nursing education, and she said being honored with the DAISY Award this summer was amazing.
“(Dr. Morales) is an excellent published educator, scholar and hard worker,” states her DAISY Award nomination. “In the classroom, (Dr. Morales) is enthusiastic and helps the learner want to learn. She is always attentive to the needs of her colleagues and the students. (Dr. Morales) is caring to everyone she meets. She is patient with students as they seek to learn and teaches with respect and integrity.”