‘True leader’ to push research in the nursing school

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Pamela Jeffries, the new dean of the School of Nursing, will focus on boosting the school's research portfolio.

This is the fifth in a series of profiles on GW’s 10 deans.

As the new dean of the School of Nursing starts her position leading one of GW’s most successful graduate programs, she hopes to build up research in a school already well-known for its practical work.

Pamela Jeffries, who began her post in April, said she will prioritize growing research and scholarship during the first year of her deanship to propel the school in national rankings. The school is currently tied at No. 58 with Purdue and South Dakota universities for nursing schools, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“To be visible as the new dean, I want to climb in the rankings as well as meet the needs of our societies and our communities with all the health care changes we have going on,” Jeffries said. “It’s a really exciting time to be a nurse.”

While nursing schools often focus on the practical experiences for students, Jeffries hopes to also push for more research among faculty members. To be able to figure out the best ways to teach students, there needs to be research behind those best practices — research that Jeffries hopes can come out of her school.

Jeffries will start that process with two new hires in the research department, including an already open position for a tenured professorship that has a “demonstrated ability to make significant contributions in research.”

Jeffries, who came to GW after a stint as vice provost of digital initiatives at the School of Nursing at John’s Hopkins University from 2013 to 2015, said the nursing school has room to grow and change to reflect other developments in health care fields like increasing collaborative work among doctors’ offices.

“We’re lucky to be in nursing because with any health care career – nursing being one of them – we’re a growing, emerging field and it’s continuing to grow,” Jeffries said.

She said the health care field now is more focused on teams of health care professionals working together in flexible positions, which means the school should reflect those adjustments and allow students to experience those types of opportunities.

“As a dean, you keep your eye on the community, the market, what’s available,” Jeffries said.

Jean Johnson, the inaugural dean of the nursing school and a current professor in the school, said Jeffries is a “leader in nursing” who is perfect for the position at this time.

“She is the right person at the right time to take the school to the next level of excellence,” Johnson said.

She added that Jeffries is a “true leader” who has made significant contributions in technology in nursing. While Jeffries was at Johns Hopkins University, she researched innovative teaching strategies and online learning. While at the Indiana University School of Nursing, Jeffries designed a medical simulation center and instituted a faculty-student mentor program.

Johnson led the school starting with its opening in 2010 and pulled it into the top 50 schools of nursing in the country while it was still in its infancy. Johnson added programs like doctor of physical therapy and clinical research administration in four years.

Johnson was called a “visionary” by colleagues for her leadership in 2013. Jessica Greene, the associate dean of research for the nursing school said Jeffries has similar qualities to those of her predecessor, leading to a smooth transition over the past few months.

“She is very approachable, transparent and inclusive. She fits right in,” Greene said in an email.

Greene added that Jeffries’ emphasis in research is one that will be positive for the school.

“She is very supportive of growing research within the school, which from my perspective is wonderful,” she said.

Other deans have looked to research as a way to boost rankings in their early years, including former School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie who pushed for professors with “stronger research-focused values.”

Ed Salsberg, a research instructor at the nursing school, described the continuity between Johnson and Jeffries as “excellent.”

“I haven’t seen anything that has fallen through the cracks,” he said.

Salsberg also said that it is important to consider resources and budgeting when expanding the focus of the five-year-old school.

“There are obviously real resource constraints, so I think all faculty need to be sensitive to priorities,” Salsberg said. After two years of missed budget projections, officials cut 5 percent from all administrative divisions last year.

He also said that one of Jeffries’ priorities, technology, would help students in an age where graduate schools are turning to online programs as a way to lower costs. The nursing school’s online graduate program is ranked ninth out of more than 130 programs listed by U.S. News & World Report.

Education is “in a period of transition and rethinking,” he said.

“We hear in the press the concerns about the high costs of education and how it’s a challenge, and I think the dean is aware of that,” Salsberg said. “The increasing use of electronic and digital approaches on education have become very important.”

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