Faculty: Kelli Jones
“My dad was a huge sports fan, and he had two girls, so I learned sports,” said Jones, a clinical assistant professor of nursing. “Growing up back in the day, there was one TV, and my dad was watching football, so I either had to learn it or go read or something, but I love sports.”
While she’s a big fan of Philadelphia sports teams, she’s a bigger fan of her nursing students and the nursing program at ECU.
“We graduate wonderful nurses, and we want to make sure that we graduate the number of nurses to fulfill our mission to eastern North Carolina,” Jones said.
Jones started at ECU in 2021, part of a career in health care that she always knew she wanted.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “My mom kept those schoolbooks about what you wanted to be from kindergarten and first grade, and I always wanted to be a nurse. There is no one in my family who is a nurse, so I don’t know why, but it never wavered — high school, college graduation and then straight into nursing. I have no regrets. I’ve loved it.”
Originally from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania — a place Jones describes as the “perfect small town” — she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from West Virginia Wesleyan College, which is where she also met her husband, Steve. They eventually decided to escape northern winters and moved south, first to South Carolina and then eventually to Greenville.
Jones worked part time as a nurse at what was then Pitt County Memorial Hospital while raising her two sons, Garrett and Grant, but as they grew older, she was ready for more full-time work. She landed at Pitt Community College as a lab coordinator in 2006.
“I fell in love with it,” Jones said. “It wasn’t my intention. It just happened, and I loved it, and I got my master’s in education here at ECU and started teaching, and 17 years later, here I am.”
She teaches students in advanced medical/surgical care of adults, where the third-semester nursing students learn more advanced concepts.
“I enjoy the students,” Jones said. “That’s so cliché, but seeing the lights come on, making that connection, encouraging them and telling them that they can do it, I enjoy that.”
She encourages her students to push for more.
“I always tell them that it’s cool to be smart. Be smart. Don’t be satisfied,” Jones said. “You don’t just want to do it. Don’t you want to know why? You want to really understand the whys of your actions, to be smart and to take good care of your patients. They’re relying on us to do the right thing.”
Like many instructors, Jones enjoys watching her students cross the stage to receive their degrees.
“The biggest reward in teaching is seeing the students graduate. There’s nothing like it,” she said. “One student who just graduated gave me the sweetest card, saying how much I helped her, and it just made me feel good. That’s the biggest reward, those positive affirmations from students and graduates. How cool is it that you’re contributing to that pipeline into the nursing profession?”
She also enjoys seeing that special bond nursing students create.
“The programs are so rigorous. They’re hard because of the profession, so students have to really help each other out,” Jones said. “They hold each other accountable. They do study groups together and make sure they’re getting to clinical on time. You can’t do this on your own. They help each other out, and it’s also that same cohort. You start and go through this whole program together, and if you’re going to be a nurse, you do care about people, so I think that’s part of it, too. I think nurses have that empathy, so I think they have it for their fellow students also.”
She said faculty and staff take pride in the College of Nursing’s long history of success, pointing to a 97% first-time pass rate for bachelor’s graduates on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), its National League for Nursing Center of Excellence designation, and its ranking as the top producer of new nurses among the state’s four-year colleges and universities.
Jones is taking a lead role as the college goes through a curriculum revision based on new standards from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
“The teamwork, it involves the faculty of the entire College of Nursing,” she said. “We’re having big faculty workdays, and everyone is contributing.”
In her 34 years in nursing, Jones has seen the profession become more demanding. Nursing shortages have increased patient ratios, and shift work can present its own set of challenges. She applauds students willing to endure those challenges to help others.
“It’s tough. The students have to really want to do it,” Jones said. “They have to be dedicated, and I just kind of help them get there.”
Name: Kelli Jones
Title: Clinical assistant professor
Hometown: Stewartstown, Pennsylvania
Colleges attended and degrees: West Virginia Wesleyan College, Bachelor of Science in nursing; East Carolina University, Master of Science in nursing — nursing education
Years working at ECU: Two
What I do at ECU: I teach undergraduate nursing students in their third semesters in nursing care of adults — advanced medical/surgical course both in the classroom and in the clinical arena.
What I love about ECU: The students and the faculty! The ECU College of Nursing has a strong history of excellent NCLEX pass rates scores. Everyone works together to maintain that high level of excellence. The entire College of Nursing, from the dean to all faculty and staff, works as a team to graduate the best Pirate nurses from all our degree programs.
What advice do you give to students? Stay organized. Have your classes and study schedule on your calendar. That way you will keep yourself accountable to studying and will be better prepared for exams by reviewing your courses daily. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors. We’re here to help.
Favorite class to teach? My current class, nursing care of adults. It is so great seeing the students putting everything together.
What do you like to do when not working? I love being outside, exercising, hiking, biking, the beach, traveling and cooking with my husband and making trips to Raleigh and Savannah to visit our sons.
Last thing I watched on TV: “Queen’s Gambit”
First job: As a new registered nurse, it was at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Towson, Maryland.
Guilty pleasure: Cheering on Philadelphia sports teams
Favorite meal: Pizza
One thing most people don’t know about me: I love to play cribbage.