Leaders in Nursing Education

Leaders in Nursing Education - Dr. Teri Murray, Dean of St. Louis University School of Nursing

Thasin Jaigirdar
Mar 2, 2015

Dr. Teri Murray serves as the Dean of the School of Nursing at St. Louis University’s School of Nursing. She has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels of nursing education. Her area of expertise is in Community Health and also has experience in public and home health. Her research and policy interests are focused on social determinants of health, population health, and the interplay between social environment and health outcomes to achieve individual and community level health equity. She received her BSN, MSN, and PhD all from St. Louis University.

How did you decide on a career in Nursing and what drew you to Nursing Education?
As long as I can remember I always wanted to be a teacher.  At three years old, I would wait for my older sister to come home from kindergarten eager to hear what she had learned that day.  I would then form my own classroom with dolls, and carefully teach them what I had learned; I even assigned homework. I did this while my sister watched the popular 60’s TV series, “Julia,” a nurse played by Diane Carroll.  You see, my sister wanted to be the nurse of the family and I was born to teach.

While attending high school, there was a teacher’s strike. The media not only covered the strike but the many challenges associated with teaching adolescents.  Troubled by the media reports and influenced by my sister, I switched my major from teaching to nursing.   What a great decision!

While studying nursing at Saint Louis University, I was informed and formed by the Jesuit values and the notion of social justice.  Transformed, I made the commitment to work with and serve the needs of others truly believing that the burdens and benefits of society should be fairly and equitably distributed.   These ideals led to my work as a public health nurse.  Following my calling to be a teacher, I soon began teaching public health nursing and the rest you might say, is history.

What does your “average” day look like as a Dean at a nursing school?
I have been dean for seven years and it amazes me that after seven years no two days are alike.  Much of my day is dedicated to meetings with various internal and external stakeholders.  External stakeholders include meeting with healthcare organizations to develop or expand existing academic-practice partnerships for students and faculty, developing stronger relationships with alumni, cultivating potential donors for fundraising activities, budget and fiscal planning meetings for the School and University, meeting with various faculty and or student groups related to student organizations or School of Nursing events; and meeting with faculty to discuss curricular issues, workload or research opportunities.  As you can see most of my day revolves around engaging with others to accomplish the tripartite mission (teaching, research, and service) of the School and ensure that the School is aligned with the strategic directions of the University.  I have to carve out time for my own professional development as well as time to reflect and think strategically about what’s next on the horizon for the School and profession.  What I do enjoy about the deanship is the ability to engage with multiple people from different sectors…this allows me the opportunity to flourish and it fosters my ability to develop and discover new insights.  It allows my ideas to cross pollinate and gives me the ability to think disruptively about what’s new and next for nursing education.

What are the toughest challenges facing nurses today?
Ensuring Diversity.  Recruiting underrepresented groups in nursing is a priority for the nursing profession and is consistent with the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine report on the Future of Nursing. There is yet a lot of work to be done. This work will take the cooperation and involvement of all, those from the various government offices, businesses, health care institutions, insurance industries and academia. We must recognize that diversity is a critical part of the mission of health care and a national challenge for the future workforce.   A culturally diverse workforce is essential in meeting the health care needs of the nation and achieving health equity among minority populations. Other major challenges include ensuring patient and staff safety, dealing with much sicker patients who have co-morbidities; working within the reimbursement frameworks, dealing with nursing and faculty shortages; and continuing to advance the debate for advanced practice nurses to be able to practice within the scope of their education and training.  There is a definite need to developing different educational models for nursing students to ensure they are prepared to practice for tomorrow’s healthcare environments.  I often wonder what is significant about the healthcare milieu that often causes the new graduate nurses to encounter difficulty or what is commonly known as “reality shock” when entering the field.

How you do you foresee the relationship between doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurses change over the next few years?
I think there will be more interprofessional collaboration and team based practice.  Each profession has something to bring to the table in improving the health status of individuals, families, and communities.  This would be consistent with the recently adapted Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice.

What is some advice would you give current college students interested in pursuing a career in nursing?
Below are some of the parting words that I give to the new graduates at Saint Louis University, some of them my own and others are quotes from famous people:

  • Become actively involved in professional organization which will help you with both professional and personal development.

  • Find a mentor/mentee relationship. You can have more than one mentor and you will find that mentors will be especially valuable to you as you map out and strategize your career trajectory.

  • Seek networking opportunities. Networkers share experience, opportunity and advice.

  • Obtain a confidant, one who you can talk to about what’s going on in your head and heart without the fear of being judged or betrayed.

  • Continue in a spirit of excellence as one Roman philosopher said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” (Seneca)

  • Always follow the three R’s: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for your actions. (Dalai Lama)

  • Help others along the way, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” (James Keller)

  • Implement the best clinical practices available but be mindful to create and pave the way for the next practices.

  • And lastly, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).