Brenau Voices: Michael Jones

Dec. 2, 2021
Kelsey Podo

This nursing professor uses his own experiences to better serve rural communities 

Early on in life, Michael Jones knew two things — he wanted to help people and pull himself out of poverty.

Jones, who recently became Brenau University’s Richards Endowed Graduate Nursing chair, was raised by his parents in Carthage, Mississippi, with his four sisters and brother. His father was a mechanic, and his mother worked for a sewing factory. 

Jones said something sparked within him while “growing up in extreme poverty, seeing the sickness of family members” and the state of this rural community. 

“I always wanted to be in a position of helping folk,” he said. “I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my life past graduating from high school.”

During his junior year of high school, Jones said his guidance counselor gave him a career track assessment, which labeled nursing as his No. 1 most successful route. At the time, he was considering becoming either an English teacher or nurse. Jones said he met a nurse at his school’s career day who helped drive his ultimate choice. 

“I decided at that time that I could make the most impact being a nurse and helping people more so than I could in education,” he said. “ … 21 years later, I’m still in nursing. I’m very happy to be educating future nurses.”

One step at a time, Jones climbed within his field, earning his associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in nursing while still serving as a nurse in different facets of the field. 

“I think my background in poverty — having to work and attend school at the same time — I think that was the biggest challenge for me,” Jones said. “Not only from my childhood, but as I grew into an adult because I just didn’t have parents who came from money. Being able to work around those issues that I had, I think really helped me to be very successful.”

Jones said he decided to achieve a doctorate in nursing to bolster both his credibility as a health care professional and his effectiveness as a leader, mentor and educator in the field. 

The professor credits his motivation to his mom and grandmother. He said they both encouraged him to “do big things” and follow his dreams. 

“Looking back, I would’ve never known that I was poor because my mom always made sure that everything we had was taken care of,” Jones said. “ … She never took off work and had a very strong work ethic. She expected the best out of us.”

Jones spent the first five years of his career serving as a full-time bedside registered nurse. Then, from 2005-2010, he worked as a health care benefits educator while keeping up part-time direct care as a nurse. 

In 2010, Jones stepped into the world of academia and health care administration. He said a lot of his work focused on bringing public health to underserved and rural areas. Over the years, Jones has taught at various universities, later joining Brenau in August 2020 as an assistant professor of nursing and entry-level master of science in nursing coordinator. 

Jones said he finds great joy in educating minds and mentoring students, especially those who share a similar upbringing to himself. 

“My ultimate goal for these students. Ideally, I’d like for them to come back and be nurse educators because there’s a huge shortage of nurse educators,” Jones said. “I want them to be able to go out into the community and provide high quality care for those individuals.”