Leaders in Nursing Education

Dr. Pamela F. Cipriano, American Nurses Association

Osmosis Team
Aug 12, 2014

Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, serves as the president of the American Nurses Association. She has held various leadership positions in the past, including senior director for health care management consulting at Galloway Advisory by iVantage and editor in chief of American Nurse Today, the official journal of the ANA. Dr. Cipriano is also a research associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. Her immense experience in nursing education caught our eye, and we were fortunate to speak with her about her nursing career.

How did you decide on a career in nursing?

I originally started college planning to become a medical technologist. I quickly realized I would prefer a career with more interaction with people and switched to nursing knowing it would allow me to leverage my chemistry and biology credits.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career in nursing? 

Without question, being able to make a difference in the lives of patients and families with successful outcomes was most rewarding as a bedside nurse and clinical nurse specialist. Having worked in critical care and trauma the outcome was not always full recovery, but sometimes a peaceful death. As a nursing and healthcare organization executive, being able to create an environment where clinicians and support staff are able to do their very best work has been rewarding. Knowing I can provide the leadership that helps professionals deliver care that provides a patient and family centered experience and meets the other aims of care set forth by the Institute of Medicine (safe, effective, efficient, timely, and equitable) has made a difference in the effectiveness of organizations.

It seems that more nursing students are pursuing advanced degrees. Can you describe how you managed to combine your career in health care with positions in leadership and administration?

Nurses are pursuing advanced degrees in nursing to enter specific advanced practice clinical roles (nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist) as well as to become faculty, researchers. Pursuing other graduate degrees in fields such as law, business administration, and informatics, allows nurses to blend their clinical expertise with a broader range of applied knowledge in complementary areas. As professionals, nurses are able to provide leadership to a wide variety of groups such as healthcare delivery organizations, policy makers, professional organizations, their communities, and governing bodies. I was immediately hooked on participating in professional organizations as a student and served as President of the National Student Nurses Association. That provided a natural segue to elected and appointed positions in the American Nurses Association and other nursing societies. After becoming an expert clinician I believed I could have a greater impact on patient care and nursing professional practice by moving into administrative roles given my leadership experiences. Making that transition was a natural transition and I have served in executive roles for more than 25 years.

As president of the American Nurses Association, how do your foresee nursing education change over the next few years?

Nursing education has been undergoing significant change with an aggressive push to expand doctoral education programs, both PhD and Doctor of Nursing Practice. There is also an ongoing effort to provide articulation for nurses with an Associate Degree to progress as quickly as possible into Baccalaureate programs. These trends will continue. The biggest change will come as a result of efforts in Interprofessional Education (IPE) that will bring together students of nursing, medicine, pharmacy, therapies, nutrition, social work, and other allied areas to create more knowledge of team based care and focus on quality outcomes. Nursing curricula already have incorporated a focus on patient safety and improved quality but that is not necessarily true in all other disciplines. Additionally, nursing education programs will need to prepare more advanced practice nurses and registered nurses to integrate care across the continuum in the community, modifying a traditional hospital-based focused curriculum to one that focuses more on care transitions, self-management, prevention, health maintenance, and use of technology.

What two or three things would you change about the way we educate our nurses?

As mentioned above, it will be essential that we educate nurses for the future in an environment that embraces team based care and creates an understanding of the interprofessional dependencies. Nurses will also need to be aware of the expanding need to measure quality as part of teams that will be held accountable for quality outcomes. It is also essential that more of nurses’ education focus on health promotion, illness prevention, transitions in care, and engaging patients and families in self-management; development of leadership skills is also a given. All of these will rely on greater education on the use of technologies that stretch far beyond the traditional hospital.