Dean’s Message—Time of transformation

Fall 2021

Dear alumni, colleagues and supporters,

In February, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) released new requisites for nursing education, The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education. A taskforce of nursing and health care professionals developed the new model and framework, designed to transform nursing education and equip future nurses with the education, clinical reasoning skills and expertise needed to meet the ever-growing health care needs of the U.S.

Dean Jeffries at her desk in her Vanderbilt officeLike other schools of nursing, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is exploring how to best implement the new requirements. The Essentials comprise just some of many changes facing schools of nursing. Another is the retooling of NCLEX testing to better incorporate the clinical judgment skills and knowledge needed by registered nurses. Still another change is the call of the AACN and academic organizations to move the degree requirement for nurse practitioners to the doctor of nursing practice degree from the master of science in nursing.

These forward-moving and bold changes in the nursing profession make this a thrilling time to be in nursing, particularly at Vanderbilt School of Nursing. I am currently in my fifth month as dean of Vanderbilt School of Nursing and I am so happy I’m here. In addition to conducting the usual work and responsibilities of any new dean, I spent my first 100-plus days by meeting individually with each staff and faculty member, as well as some alumni and school supporters. In this listening tour, I asked each person what they thought was working at VUSN, what wasn’t, what they thought we didn’t do that we should, and what we do that the school should stop doing. I have just analyzed the results of this listening tour. The overwhelming data is that people love working at the School of Nursing. The school offers a collaborative, stimulating environment, it is committed to excellence, and faculty and staff are proud to be educating future advanced practice nurses and contributing to nursing knowledge.

Naturally, the listening tour did highlight some areas that faculty and staff felt could be improved, such as strengthening communication, improving systems, strengthening cross-unit collaboration and consolidating tasks to avoid duplication. The school’s leadership, faculty and staff have already started to address some of those items moving forward.

I share this with you because change is normal. The VUSN community—its alumni, faculty, friends, staff and students—will see changes in nursing education at Vanderbilt and every nursing school in the next three-to-ten years. As we commit to help health systems like our partner Vanderbilt Medical Center with their needs for more registered nurses, as we pledge that every VUSN graduate will operate with stellar critical reasoning skills and knowledge, and as we recognize change in our profession, and indeed, in how society depends on nurses, the school will adapt, innovate, advance and yes, change.

Some innovations are already in progress and are highlighted in this issue of Vanderbilt Nurse. In News Around the School, you’ll read about federal grants awarded our faculty. You’ll meet the three prominent nurse informaticists preparing students (and our profession) to do more with data and technology. You will read about four nurse scientists making discoveries that help people with acute and chronic illnesses, one of our signature research emphases. This issue also includes our annual Making an Impact report, which highlights current funding, new faculty and scholarly accomplishments by faculty and students.

This is my first column for Vanderbilt Nurse magazine, and I thank you for your attention. I hope that in the coming months, I will be able meet many of you and hear of your connections to this incredible school. I am honored to be the ninth dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and to be part of this nursing community.

Pamela R. Jeffries, PhD, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH
Valere Potter Distinguished Professor of Nursing
RWJF Nurse Executive Fellow Alumna