45 Minutes with the Nursing Academic Leaders

By Jerome Babate /Claudine Rhea Sun

The administrative arena in the world of nursing is an extremely competitive and stressful environment. Being a nurse leader demands passion, dedication, superb critical thinking skills and an undying wisdom to create essential policies and decide the day-to-day fate of an organization.

Mark Ryan Contaoi
This week, we interviewed two nurse leaders and brought the spotlight to their leadership skills and professional commitment as administrators in their respective universities. 

Mark Ryan Y. Contaoi, BS Bio, RN, MAN earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology and Nursing at University of Southern Mindanao and North Valley College Foundation, Inc. respectively. He also finished his master’s degree in nursing with a major in medical-surgical nursing at Southwestern University. He is currently studying at San Pedro College for his PhD in Nursing. Contaoi is the dean of nursing at the University of Southern Mindanao and is also the Research Coordinator of the College of Health Sciences in the same university. 

Laurence Garcia

Laurence Garcia, RN MN, on the other hand, is a young, energetic and passion-driven dean of Cebu Normal University. Before being the dean of one of the country’s leading nursing schools, Garcia earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Masters in Nursing major in Mental Health Psychiatric Nursing degrees from the same university.  He is a young, energetic, passion-driven dean of one of the country's leading nursing schools and has assumed office in the middle of last year. He had also been in active trail for the last few months where he coordinated an international nursing conference in Cebu as well as doing a visiting professorship at a university in Thailand. He has published and presented in various national and international publications and conferences. Currently, he is pursuing a Doctor of Science in Nursing degree major in Gerontology Nursing.  

Let’s take a sneak peak on the nursing careers of Dean Contaoi and Dean Garcia.

How would you describe yourself as an academic leader? 

MC: As an academic leader, I always believe in the power of vision. I hope that in this lifetime, I can possibly claim that I have what it takes to be the person I wanted to be. Having enrolled in the PhD in Nursing program of San Pedro College, I have realized the value of continuing education because there are so many things that we can still discover that we may not have yet experienced in the past. Things that will help us grow and become better individuals.

MC: Being the Head of the Nursing Program of the University of Southern Mindanao, I have realized that people in the organization have various personalities and that their behaviors could either put you down or the organization itself becomes dysfunctional. In our organization, I have been working to build a good working atmosphere and establish harmony in the professional relationship among my co-employees. With this, I have come to understand individual diversity in terms of personal differences and their views and opinions over matters. However; we can always harmonize and use these differences to become one in spirit and in goal. It is all about the teamwork that keeps the vision intact. Therefore, I am a leader who sets goals, acknowledges individual’s strengths and listens to people who could give brilliant ideas and great contributions.

LG: I am not yet considering myself as a leader. With my age right now, given this great responsibility, I am just considering myself as a motivator of change and an inspiration to the younger generations. I am humbly enthused with this opportunity to bring about change. Leading is yet far from what I am doing right now. Only when I see my own people moving in the direction where I am going will I consider myself as a leader. For now, the best description would be someone entrusted to create movement, by that I mean moving towards excellence in the academe.


What is a challenge that you had to overcome in your career and how did it make you a stronger person?

LG: The greatest challenge would be balancing between the great responsibilities of a young administrator and enjoying my youth. I have to sacrifice a lot of youthful moments and face the tasks given to me with maturity. While people of my age are savoring the moments of youth, I am facing responsibilities heavy enough to take away youth from me. But, honestly, I never regret my decision to accept the challenge because through this I was able to inspire the youth. Setting aside enjoyment will not mean losing happiness. It only means choosing a deeper meaning of happiness. But of course, I have to say goodbye to youthful fun and have fun the way mature people will.

What is something you have accomplished in your career that you take great pride in? 

MC: I really take pride in everything that I’ve been through in my career as an academic leader. The responsibilities and duties I have assumed for a year now as Dean of Nursing is life-changing for me. I would say managing people constitutes the most difficult and yet most rewarding function one can ever have. The greatest accomplishment I made so far is about changing the old landscape of leadership and management in the organization. I was able to transform what seemed to be conventional into something new and promising. I would also say that I gained the kind of respect, trust and confidence I deserved from colleagues in the organization despite being the youngest in the group. However; I believe that leading and managing people at my workplace would still entail a lot of courage and dedication making it a good training ground to become an effective leader, communicator, and manager to the organization. It is even more inspiring to note that people thank you for making a difference in their lives in a meaningful way. There is no greater accomplishment than seeing your people doing well because of your influence. Being a change agent, for me, means that you are doing something good for the people.

MC: My 10 years of teaching experience combined with my roughly four years of administrative leadership opened my eyes to a lot of obstacles and unforgettable events that became turning points on how I could effectively handle imperfections in my professional career. I would say that conflict is inevitable in any organization and this posits the challenge to my leadership skills. Whenever there is conflict, it definitely changes the landscape of the working environment.

MC: Over the years I have witnessed people in our organization self-destruct because they wouldn’t engage out of a fear of conflict. Sometimes I can be the source of conflict because of some decisions that are not amenable to everyone. This is really the most difficult part of my career having to deal with disputes and misunderstandings. It is not at all uncommon to see what might have been a non-event manifest itself into a monumental problem if not resolved early on.

MC: I have to make sure that I resolve issues and concerns at the soonest time possible. I know that I cannot please everybody but developing effective conflict resolution skills will set an essential component of building a sustainable organizational model.  From my perspective, the issues surrounding conflict resolution can be best summed-up by adhering to the following ethos: “Don’t fear conflict; embrace it – it’s your job.”

LG: As a teacher, the best accomplishment would always be hearing news about our graduates who achieve in their own fields. I may have contributed little to their success but I know for sure that part of who they are now is because of the efforts of a teacher like me. Once in their lives they have walked with me towards the direction of success.

What advice do you hope to offer your undergraduate students?

MC: Every time I face my students in the classroom, I always remind them that it is not by accident that they took up nursing but they were destined to be in the place where they are right now. The circumstances and decisions that led them to the nursing profession do have a purpose. So always look at the brighter side of it and do not be discouraged of the many do’s and don’ts of the course.   Work hard and be driven to achieve what is set to be accomplished at the end of the line. They must be high-spirited; goal-oriented, and give over a 100% of what they do so they can bring about the best and positive results in the end. Nursing is not a difficult pursuit at all when you keep the faith and that strong belief that you can withstand the tests that come along. Being passionate about the things you do will keep you going and help you get closer to your dream to become a professional nurse in the future. Just be guided with this quote “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”.

LG: If they wanted to achieve something, they need not suffer a lot. That is what I learned. They just have to love what they are doing. Finding ways to enjoy even in the most difficult moments would make living life a little lighter. Always balance work and play.