As a little boy growing up in Puerto Rico, Jose Silva imagined he’d be a teacher one day. Years later he was drawn to the medical field, so it is no surprise to anyone who knew him well that today he is a nursing educator at Massachusetts Bay Community College.
In understanding the complicated life of a community college student, it helps that the Malden resident is, himself, a community college alumnus. Following his graduation from UMass Boston, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Jose, like many adult students, sought direction. He took a personality test that suggested he might want to explore careers in medicine, and, in fact, he had already thought of health sciences as a career option. After researching medical programs at various colleges, he applied to the weekend associate degree nursing program at Bunker Hill Community College as a stepping-stone to further his career. Hours after learning he passed his nursing boards and becoming a Registered Nurse (RN), he applied to Liberty University’s Master of Science in Nursing program. Once he received his master’s degree, he enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at UMass Amherst. The program encompassed both research and hands-on, clinical opportunities and experiences.
When Silva is not in the classroom or in clinical simulation rooms, he spends school breaks as a floor nurse at Tewksbury Hospital. It is vital, he said, as both a nurse and an educator that he maintains his skill set. He explains that nurses require strong competencies, and he strives to teach these to his students to cultivate these important skills as future nurses.
“I knew when I decided to teach nursing I would make it a positive experience for the students,” he said. “I would treat them with the respect they deserve and require them to excel.”
He joined MassBay faculty as an adjunct professor in January 2019 and became a full-time professor in September of that year. He teaches Pharmacology I & II, Mental Health, and Medical Surgical courses to students in the Practical Nursing (PN) program. Every year since 2017, MassBay’s PN program has boasted a 100 percent passing rate on national board exams, and it was named best in the state in 2020 by the independent nursing advocacy organization RegisteredNursing.org.
“I am happy with what I do,” said Jose. “I enjoy this job. I love working with these students… talking, guiding, and coaching them.”
With his experience as a working nurse and having a doctorate in Nursing Practice, Silva brings a blend of practical professional advice and strong academics into the classroom.
“Every time I lecture, I share my own experiences, whether they are clinical or personal,” he said.
For example, a class lecture on addiction might lead to a discussion of a family member or friend struggling with pain management or alcoholism, or even about the students’ own relationships with seemingly benign, yet addictive, substances like sugar and caffeine.
Jose strives to be the respectful, knowledgeable, and compassionate professor he always wanted to have as a nursing student himself.
“Pay attention. Listen to the patient,” Silva says. “Determine when it is the right time to ask questions. Sometimes patients just need to talk. You need to show them you actually care.
It’s as simple as making eye contact. One of the first things I tell my students is to treat their patients the way they would want to be treated.”
Jose adds that in addition to listening, patient and personal safety is paramount. A 60-second scan of a patient’s room could thwart a medical crisis. Collaboration is another must-have trait for quality nursing. Nurses must be collaborative with medical imaging personnel, paramedics, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physician assistants. Silva believes that “positive collaborations equal positive outcomes.”
Jose Silva, DNP, EdS, RN, CNEcl
Department of Health Sciences