Before he found his true calling, Dr. Raney Linck tried out a few careers after his bachelor's in mass communication, including as an assistant chaplain at a Baptist hospital and as a sales rep. He was working in sales when he decided he wanted another college degree – one that would allow him to transition to a care profession.
“I was looking at three options: nursing, chaplaincy or teaching. I chose nursing, because it really combines all three.”
Over his 20-year career as a nurse and educator, Linck saw nearly every day how his spirituality came into play. He would often hold the hands of patients or their family members and pray with them.
One day, as a hospice nurse, Linck had a patient who quickly took a turn for the worse before any family could arrive. The man’s daughter was out of state, desperately trying to make it to town. It was important to the family that this father hear the words of their faith’s prayers before he died. Linck, a Unitarian, was not of the same faith, but he went into action. “I pulled out my iPad and started Googling. I found the Bahá’í prayers and sat by his bedside, praying them aloud.”
The daughter arrived after her father had passed away, but Linck said, “It was extraordinarily meaningful for her to know those words were being prayed at her father’s bedside as he was dying.”
That’s the type of patient care the School of Nursing at the University of St. Thomas wants its students to learn, appreciate and implement. And Linck will be by their side, too, teaching them.
For the third phase of his career journey, Linck embraced the role of teaching nursing as a full-time professor. “I love teaching because it gives you the chance to make an exponential difference by shaping the next generation of nurses,” he said.
He taught at four different colleges and universities and obtained a doctorate in nursing practice in health leadership and innovation. In July 2021, he joined the new School of Nursing at St. Thomas as a tenure-track faculty. As an assistant professor, he has been pivotal in helping to launch the inaugural baccalaureate and master’s nursing programs in a school that will welcome its first students in fall 2022.
Linck says he has found his dream job.
“To be part of a start-up is such an exciting opportunity because we're creating something truly new. We’re not just thinking outside the box – there is no box,” he said. “It’s really visionary. Every decision and every meeting, we have the student in mind first. We're going to reshape nursing education.”
Prior to joining St. Thomas, Linck was on the nursing faculty at the University of Minnesota and was named the 2013 Minnesota Nurse of the Year in Education by the Minnesota March of Dimes. He also received two DAISY Awards for Extraordinary Nurses for his work as a nurse educator.
“Raney is a dynamic teacher,” said Dr. Martha Scheckel, founding director of the School of Nursing at St. Thomas. “His energy, creativity and enthusiasm for teaching will captivate students. He creates learning experiences that have sticking power and is known positively as a teacher to remember – an expert facilitator of learning.”
Linck refers to himself as a nerd. But he’s also gregarious and funny, while still super passionate and serious about the state of health care.
There is a huge difference in the resources between rural and urban areas, Linck said. “You go into urban areas and you have every kind of opportunity and specialist and clinic you can imagine. You go to a rural area, you don't have much.”
This hit close to home for Linck. A member of his husband’s family in northern Minnesota had a heart attack and couldn’t get a hospital bed in Wisconsin or Minnesota because there were no beds available due to COVID-19. So, the family member was flown to North Dakota, where he died.
“If someone has to be flown all the way to North Dakota and then his whole family has to travel there and that's ultimately where he dies, our health care system is broken,” Linck said.
The School of Nursing at St. Thomas is planning to do its part to fix what is broken. In part, St. Thomas is passionate about enrolling nursing students who want to treat the whole person, in the communities where they live.
Linck has firsthand experience providing care in smaller towns. He’s a southerner. He spent 23 years living in the middle of Tennessee. At the beginning of his nursing career he practiced in small towns south of Nashville.
“We need rural nurses,” Linck explained. “We need nurses to go back to their communities and provide that care that is reflective of every kind of community – Black folk, Hmong folk, rural white folk, LGBTQ folk. Everybody is more likely to practice in their own community because that's home.”
For Linck, he is happy he has found his home teaching at St. Thomas. “I tell people that I found my passion with nursing, but then, when I started teaching nursing, I found my passion within my passion,” he said. “I couldn’t have picked a better job."