Recognition of excellence

Guidance for employees seeking degrees

Photo of Lyssa Miller, R.N., left, talks with Jodie Dunkelberger, DNP, R.N., NEA-BC
Lyssa Miller, R.N., left, talks with Jodie Dunkelberger, DNP, R.N., NEA-BC

Lyssa Miller, R.N., had been thinking about going back to school for several years but couldn’t quite bring herself to commit. When she learned about Norton Healthcare’s new virtual Office of Student Affairs, she thought it might give her the push she needed to move forward, and she was right.

“I had been getting a little discouraged,” Miller said. The office “helped me regain my confidence, and it helped so much with finding a path.”

Located in the nursing portal of Nsite, Norton Healthcare’s employee intranet, the Office of Student Affairs is a one-stop shop for employees currently pursuing a degree or considering it.

“It will benefit any Norton employee who wants to further their education,” said Jodie Dunkelberger, DNP, R.N., NEA-BC, director, Patient Care Services. “It’s designed to help and encourage all Norton employees to reach their full potential. We want everyone to feel they are valued and supported in both their education and careers.”

Some of the resources on the portal are lists of project work coaches; links to past capstone projects; writing samples such as research papers and résumés; presentation templates; a student forum where users can chat and buy, sell or trade textbooks; a link to workforce development contacts; research and data gathering tips; and frequently asked questions.

Prior to the new portal’s launch in December 2017, Norton Healthcare employees had to seek out each of these resources on their own, and many did not know where to start, Dunkelberger said. The need for such a service quickly became clear. In the first two weeks, the portal had about 800 unique visitors.

Making connections
When users visit the Office of Student Affairs, they are connected to not only online resources, but also career and education counselors available to meet with them for additional support. The counselors also are able to refer users to other sources of information.

That’s exactly what happened in Miller’s case. She was familiar with Norton Healthcare’s tuition assistance program, but wanted to learn more about scholarship opportunities and career track options. With the click of a button, she was able to easily schedule an appointment for in-person counseling, and was connected with Dunkelberger. When they met, they talked about everything from various degree programs to fluctuations in the job market to career placement after graduation.

The office helped reassure Miller that pursuing a master’s degree in nursing was the right choice for her. “It also helped me realize that I was pursuing it for the right reasons — not for money, but because I really want to do more for my patients,” she said.

Miller has already interviewed with two local accredited nursing schools. Once she chooses a school, she plans to start her family nurse practitioner program in August. She plans take full advantage of the other resources the office has to offer throughout her education, and she encourages anyone else who is thinking about going back to school to do the same.

“I would absolutely recommend it to all my co-workers, especially if they were indecisive or unsure in any way,” she said.

Institute for Nursing named Center of Excellence

Center of Nursing Excellence logo

Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing has been designated a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education for 2017 to 2021 by the National League for Nursing (NLN). The institute also earned this designation for 2013 to 2017.

The NLN recognizes nursing education programs, health care organizations and agencies with a proven commitment to continuous quality improvement that sets them apart from others. Norton Healthcare was recognized in the category “Creating Workplace Environments that Promote Academic Progression of Nurses,” and is one of only five health care systems in the nation to receive NLN’s Center of Excellence designation.

“We’re honored to again receive this prestigious designation, as it recognizes both our Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing and its academic partners in achieving excellence in nursing education,” said Kim Tharp-Barrie, DNP, R.N., SANE, FNAP, system vice president, Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing and Workforce Outreach. “Norton Healthcare is committed to offering academic progression opportunities for our nearly 5,000 nurses, who provide skilled and compassionate care to our patients every day.”

“Centers of Excellence help raise the bar for all nursing programs by role-modeling visionary leadership and environments of inclusive excellence that nurture the next generation of a strong and diverse nursing workforce,” said Anne R. Bavier, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, president of the NLN.

Since it was established in 2009, Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing has assisted nearly 3,000 employees attain higher levels of nursing education and has been nationally recognized for promoting best practices in care delivery.

“The Institute for Nursing team has worked diligently to again receive this designation,” said Tracy E. Williams, DNP, R.N., senior vice president and system chief nursing officer, Norton Healthcare. “Our collaborative academic partners have also assisted greatly in our work toward education transformation.”

Academic Practice Partnership team formalizes collaboration with nursing schools

Academic training and clinical practice go hand in hand, and strong partnerships between health systems and institutions of higher learning are the bedrock of a robust workforce. That’s why Norton Healthcare Institute for Nursing created a team in January 2017 to focus on strengthening its collaboration with area nursing schools.

Part of the institute’s Nursing Strategic Plan 2020, the Academic Practice Partnership team is dedicated to making it easy for potential and current nurses to pursue nursing degrees at any level, from associate to doctorate. The team is composed of Norton Healthcare nursing leaders and representatives of undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in Kentucky and the surrounding region.

The first formal partnership between Norton Healthcare and an accredited nursing school was established with the University of Kentucky in 2013. Called the BSN to DNP program, it supports bedside registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees in the pursuit of their Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees.

The success of that program inspired Norton Healthcare’s nursing leadership to formalize its approach to agreements with other schools, according to Patricia B. Howard, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, executive associate dean, University of Kentucky College of Nursing, and co-chair of the Academic Practice Partnership team.

Having a dedicated team to oversee all academic partnerships “provides a mechanism for nurses who are interested in progressing in their careers to learn what options are available, and how they go about making decisions to pursue those options,” Howard said.

The team operates much like a think tank, Howard said, where ideas are discussed and then turned over to capable nurse leaders to implement. The first result was establishing a virtual Office of Student Affairs, which connects Norton Healthcare nurses to a wealth of academic and professional resources.

Norton Healthcare has formal and informal affiliations with other schools in the region, including Bellarmine University; Galen College of Nursing; Spalding University; University of Louisville College of Nursing; Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green; Indiana University, Bloomington; and Ohio University, Athens. Norton Healthcare employees are students in the various nursing programs, and Norton Healthcare clinical nurse educators serve as adjunct faculty at some of the schools.

Thanks to these partnerships, Norton Healthcare nurses are able to maximize their education and career opportunities and “bridge the gap” between training and practice, Howard said.

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