Nov 07, 2018

Catalyst – A New Direction

In 2002, Barbara Blum's life changed forever - her husband of 28 years died unexpectedly, her youngest child was a high school senior preparing to leave for college and she was about to be alone in a big house that was once a home to her family.

"I had a lot to live up to," Blum said. "I wanted people to see that my husband was married to a strong woman who could take care of herself and her children."

For her to do that, she knew she needed a new direction. At the time, the Michigan native was working at an urgent care center where between 250 and 300 patients were seen daily. She visited her sister for Christmas and saw an advertisement for a nursing instructor at Columbia State. Blum said she applied, got the position, sold her house and packed up her life to move to Columbia.

"In retrospect, there were so many doors open that should not have been - I had gotten a job I didn't feel like I was ready for, I sold my Michigan home at a time when houses weren't selling and I bought a home in Columbia that wasn't even for sale," Blum explained. "I had claimed the Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord… plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' I truly think my faith directed my life."

Blum said that the confidence placed in her by administration gave her a renewed sense of purpose. She was hired with the understanding that she would have to get her master's degree as soon as possible which she considers to be "the best thing she could have done" at the time.

Blum, who had a bachelor's in nursing from the University of Michigan and a registered nurse diploma from St. Joseph Mercy School, set to work earning a master's degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix the first year she was hired at the college.

Barb Blum
Photo Caption:
Blum's nursing photo.

After all of her years of education and years of practicing nursing in pediatrics, emergency and urgent care, Blum had the opportunity to pass her experiences on to her students.

"I think we are given opportunities and I think education is a privilege," she explained. "We're given opportunities to take advantage of that privilege and we need to make the most of them."

Many years ago Blum discovered her love of teaching when she took several years off of work to homeschool her children.

"I loved to see the lightbulb moment," she said. "To know that I taught my son how to read and to be able to explain things to them - that just really began my route to education."

When Blum started at Columbia State she was teaching second semester medical/surgical nursing and clinicals. She then moved into different semesters and courses progressing in her teaching skills and continuing to grow her knowledge in the field. Five years later she was asked to serve as interim director of the nursing program and accepted the position permanently in 2009.

"Barb may have needed some convincing about becoming the nursing program director, but she never looked back or let off the accelerator once she committed," said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of the Heath Sciences Division. "Under Barb's leadership, the nursing program has achieved maximum accreditation duration and exceeded goals for student completion, credentialing exam success and in-field employment. The college, the nursing profession and patients across the region have been well-served by Barb's dedication."

Blum with the president and grads
Photo Caption: Blum and Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, with nursing grads earlier in her career.

"This position comes with rewards and challenges," Blum said. "The most rewarding part is knowing that you are part of the impact that this program has on graduates, their families, the patients and the community. Working at Columbia State has changed my life - it made me a part of something bigger than myself that would last far longer than me."

Blum is retiring this month and credits a huge part of the program's success to the Columbia State nursing faculty that steer the graduates towards excellence.

"They are the driving force behind this program and it would not be what it is without them," she said.

Entering retirement, Barb has plans on spending time with her family.

"Three years ago I met a wonderful southern gentleman and we got married," Barb said. "God continues to bless me in more ways than I deserve."

Barb Blum and family
Photo Caption:
Barb Blum with her husband, children and grandchildren in 2018.