Annual Meeting: 2009 – First Cohort of New Jersey Nursing Scholars Meet, Mingle and Learn

As they sipped coffee and mingled over breakfast, the men and women of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) Faculty Preparation Program realized they had more than a scholarship in common. They were eager to take full advantage of the prestigious opportunity they had been given and, in many cases, a little overwhelmed at the thought of what lies ahead. Classes had started at their respective schools, but the 29 Scholars had not met face-to-face until the first NJNI Annual Meeting, held at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in October.
For the Scholars, the two-day meeting was an introduction to RWJF and the NJNI, and an opportunity to learn more about what would be expected of them as New Jersey Nursing Scholars and nurse educators.
“You’ll be tasked with teaching the next generation of nurses with responsibility to ensure quality care for patients,” Hassmiller told the Scholars, “and you’ll conduct research that is critical to the nation’s health. You should also encourage your best students to continue their education, “she said. “Henry Adams once said that ‘a teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.’”

“Your job is so critically important… You’re going to touch the entire health care system in New Jersey and beyond,” said Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., as the two-day event began. Hassmiller is RWJF’s senior advisor for nursing. “You are answering the call to ensure that New Jersey has the well prepared and diverse nurse faculty it needs… We want New Jersey to be the go-to place for nursing and nursing education.”
During a breakout session, Robert Atkins, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at Rutgers and an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar, gave the New Jersey Nursing Scholars advice about how to maximize their experience. Gwen Sherwood, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, also shared her wisdom, discussing team dynamics and challenging the Scholars to evaluate how their beliefs, knowledge and experiences affect the way they perceive their upcoming journey.
Project directors from the colleges and universities that are educating the Scholars attended sessions on building productive teams and mentoring. The Scholars networked with one another, project directors, RWJF program officers and others during breaks and meals. They also took advantage of the chance to get advice from mentors and experienced educators.
Over the course of their participation in the program, the New Jersey Nursing Scholars will participate in a series of webinars, online discussions, and face-to-face meetings as part of a Collaborative Learning Community (CLC) that will provide lessons and information that will help them pursue their careers as nurse educators.
Diane M. Billings, Ed.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., chancellor’s professor emerita of nursing at Indiana University School of Nursing, Indianapolis, and facilitator of the CLC, led a discussion about the role of the nurse educator. A panel provided insights into what to expect in the classroom and in the academy as a faculty member. They said that nurse faculty are more than just teachers; they are researchers and mentors, and they give back to the community when they continue to practice as nurses.
Patricia Benner, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and professor emerita at the University of California, San Francisco, gave a keynote speech, “Celebrating our Successes – Facing Our Challenges.” She drew on the results of the Carnegie Preparation for Professions Program study, the first national nursing education study in 30 years, to share best practices for compelling and effective teaching. Benner served as senior scholar on the Carnegie study research team.
“I do remember going through that developmental stage [as a nurse educator] where I was focusing on the knowledge I had to convey, and it was about teaching what I knew,” Benner said. “It took me a while to really get to focusing on the student’s learning and facilitating their learning… [I became] much better at understanding where they were coming from… and really focusing on learning rather than on my own knowledge and my own teaching.”
The “Innovations in Nursing Education” session featured a panel of veteran nursing faculty, who discussed innovations and later expanded on their respective topics in breakout sessions. Pamela Jeffries, D.N.S., R.N., F.A.A.N., associate dean of academic affairs at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, talked about the use of simulations as practice, a teaching method and an assessment tool. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey at Newark School of Nursing professor David Anthony (Tony) Forrester, Ph.D., R.N., ANEF, discussed ways the Scholars can enhance their students’ classroom experience. Diane Skiba, Ph.D., F.A.A.N., FACMI, demonstrated how technology is being used in nursing education to support student learning, from basic online courses to virtual reality classrooms that are innovative and elaborate.
“[With] the networking that I’ve made, I feel confident that… I can get through the program, excel and… if I ever have any problems, I feel I can reach out to this person, or that person, to really [reach] my goals and become the best professor I can be,” said New Jersey Nursing Scholar Andrew Fruhschien, who is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
“We are in an extraordinary place and time of aligning forces for transformative change,” said NJNI Director Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., P.N.P.-B.C., who is the Carol Kuser Loser dean and professor of nursing at The College of New Jersey in Ewing. “We have the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We have the engagement of the business community. We have faculty preparation scholars and program faculty committed to the future of nursing education, and a context of national expectation for improved health and health care.”
The New Jersey Nursing Initiative Scholars are attending:
  • The College of New Jersey, School of Nursing, Health, & Exercise Science, M.S.N. in Nursing Program
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University, The Henry P. Becton School of Nursing and Allied Health, M.S.N. in Nursing Program
  • Kean University, College of Natural, Applied, and Health Sciences, M.S.N. in Nursing Program
  • Monmouth University, School of Nursing and Health Studies, M.S.N. in Nursing Program
  • Richard Stockton College, School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, M.S.N. in Nursing Program
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, College of Nursing, Ph.D. in Nursing Program
  • Seton Hall, College of Nursing, Ph.D. in Nursing Program
  • University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Nursing, M.S.N. in Nursing Program
  • William Paterson University, College of Science and Health, M.S.N. in Nursing Program