Advancing nursing education science through faculty development

By Susan Welch | 06/01/2018

Former Sigma president inspires educator.

Terry Valiga, Susan Welch, Donna NickitasAs a Scholar in Sigma’s Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy, she created a faculty development program at her school of nursing and enhanced her own professional growth.

My passion is nursing education. A couple of years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to work closely with Karen Morin, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN, past president of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma), while she served in a consultant role within my school’s new EdD in Nursing Education program. At that time, I had been in academe for 10 years but had never been exposed to someone as transformational as Morin. She taught me the importance of connecting with others, taking risks, and improving programs. In addition, I learned to value and appreciate my failures, a lesson that has proved true for me many times over as a new EdD program director.

Karen MorinBefore meeting Morin, I hadn’t had a professional relationship with anyone from Sigma. After connecting with her, my appreciation for the organization grew tremendously. I wanted to be part of a program that would help me make a difference in nursing education. Morin recommended that I apply for Sigma’s Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy (ENFLA). I took her advice and submitted my application—I envisioned making contributions to the science of nursing education through the academy’s leadership projects.

Prior to ENFLA, my leadership experience was predominantly in professional organizations at the state level, yet I knew exposure to national leaders in nursing education would provide opportunities for further personal and professional growth. As someone who is passionate about nursing education, I had for many years avidly admired the contributions Theresa “Terry” Valiga, EdD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN, clinical professor emerita at Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina, USA, had made to nursing education.

Her work at the National League for Nursing (NLN) has produced groundbreaking offerings—the Nurse Educator Certification Program, the Academy of Nursing Education, and the Centers of Excellence program, just to name a few. Valiga is also an international expert on nursing education research. Because my leadership project would encompass promoting the scholarship of nursing education, I could think of no one more qualified to be my ENFLA Leadership Mentor.

In addition, I was assigned a Faculty Advisor, Donna M. Nickitas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNE, FAAN, whose work I had also admired for many years. She is a renowned health policy scholar, nurse educator, and retired major in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Reserve Corps. I knew I was in extremely capable hands even before my leadership project began, based on who my mentors were.

My proposed project for the ENFLA academy was to create and begin to implement a model to help integrate scholarly initiatives that will position my school of nursing to successfully apply for designation as a National League for Nursing (NLN) Center of Excellence (COE) in Nursing Education—specifically, in the category of Creating Environments that Advance the Science of Nursing Education. A major component of this model was a comprehensive faculty development initiative, housed within a to-be-created Tanner Health System School of Nursing Center for Nursing Education Excellence, that was designed to help faculty members enhance their expertise in pedagogy, scholarship, and leadership. Development of this component of the model was the primary focus of my academy project.

For the duration of the academy, I met virtually with one or both of my mentors every two weeks. During this time, they assisted with not only the development and implementation of my leadership project but also my professional development. To develop further as a leader, I began reading leadership books by authors such as Duncan, Kotter, and Maxwell. I also subscribed to the Harvard Business Review for additional leadership literature, something I never would have considered before taking part in the academy.

During my ENFLA experience, I accomplished many short-term goals. I developed further as a pedagogical scholar and mentored faculty colleagues to enhance their commitment and ability to advance the science of nursing education. I also collaborated with faculty and administrators to design a comprehensive, carefully considered, evidence-based plan that will support the growth of our faculty.

Compared to research-intensive institutions, moderate-research institutions have very limited resources to support research and bestow doctoral degrees. A faculty development program that emphasizes teaching and scholarship may increase research activities. Such a program could empower faculty not only as pedagogical experts and scholars but also as national leaders—while also enhancing the science of nursing education.

Through ENFLA, I initiated a plan to develop the Center for Nursing Education Excellence at my institution to ensure that faculty development is ongoing, individualized, and systematic—and that it promotes pedagogical expertise, individual scholarship, and growth as a leader.

ENFLA gave me the opportunity to use my passion for nursing education for my own professional development as well as that of my colleagues. I am forever grateful to Sigma and the Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy for such a wonderful opportunity. RNL

Susan Welch, EdD, RN, CCRN, is associate dean and associate professor at Tanner Health System School of Nursing at the University of West Georgia, which has campuses in Carrollton and Newnan, Georgia.

Apply now through 30 June 2018 for the Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy.

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