Leaders in Nursing Education

Dr. Marilyn Oermann, Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Educator

Thasin Jaigirdar
Published on Sep 26, 2014. Updated on Invalid date.

Dr. Oermann serves as Professor of Nursing and Director of Evaluation and Education Research at Duke University. She also holds positions as Editor-in-Chief of Nurse Educator and and serves as an Editor for the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. She has co-authored over 15 books and over 140 journal articles. We are excited to feature her as part of our Leaders in Nursing Education series.

How did you decide on a career in nursing?
I was strong in the sciences and also wanted a role with patient interaction. It was not as common when I graduated from high school as it is today for women to consider careers  in medicine or the hard sciences. Nursing was a good option.

As editor-in-chief of Nurse Educator, what do you see as the biggest challenge to nursing students throughout the world? 
I think one of the biggest challenges is gaining the knowledge and competencies needed for safe practice. Nursing curricula, similar to other health fields, is “packed with content” to learn. While many faculty are basing their courses on concepts and using teaching methods for higher level thinking, there is still a lot of knowledge to be acquired. There also are skills to be developed and practiced. With shortened nursing programs, there is less time to develop expertise in many of these essential skills. I think the growing use of simulation is a strategy to build some of this needed practice in nursing programs, but we need to ensure that these skills are integrated in simulations.

What two or three things would you change about the way we train our nurses?
1. I would ensure we have adequate clinical practice in nursing programs. With the integration of simulation, while beneficial, students still need to experience the reality of clinical practice. We need more studies on the outcomes of simulation on clinical competence and patient care. I think students should have an opportunity to experience all of the specialties in the clinical setting. Those experiences allow students to decide if the specialty is the one they want to focus on for their career. I do not think you can gain that experience in a simulation.

2. Nursing faculty are using many innovative teaching methods to encourage higher level thinking and depth of learning. For example, there are many articles on flipped classrooms, team based learning, and others that promote active learning and student engagement. I hope these methods spread to other nursing programs.

If you could change one or two things to improve the quality of patient care in the US, what would they be?
1) I would like to see an increase in nurses educated at the baccalaureate level and higher. The Future of Nursing report has called for 80% of nurses to be prepared at the BSN level: I think that is an important goal.

2) More and more nursing programs are integrating quality and safety education into their programs, and this should continue. This education is better preparing nurses to recognize issues with care and plan improvements on their units.

How you do you foresee the relationship between doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses change over the next few years?
With the emphasis on interprofessional education and practice, these relationships will improve as the years go on. However, we need to be clearer as to the role of the physician assistant (PA) and nurse practitioner (NP) and make more careful decisions as to which provider would be best for patient care. I see a critical role for the NP in preparing patients for discharge and teaching them adequately to avoid readmissions. I am not sure decisions on which provider would be best is made based on the needs of patients and the health settings but instead is made on who would be the most help to the physician or medical team.