PHILADELPHIA — Freshmen students at the University of Pennsylania School of Nursing were required this year to read a unique book as part of the curriculum — “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.”
The book, written by internationally recognized game developer Jane McGonigal, discusses how the games children and young adults are playing today have the power to help solve real-world problems.
“All those games our teenagers are playing … they learn how to tackle unnecessary obstacles. They learn how to activate extreme positive emotions,” said Afaf I. Meleis, PhD, FAAN, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at Penn. Meleis said long before the book became required reading, games were a topic at Penn.
“Our own faculty had a retreat last year, and we asked them, ‘What do you think you would like to be said about us in a newspaper somewhere [in] a headline five years from now?'” she said.
The answers included, “Penn nursing partners with Xbox to use gaming as a recruitment tool for nursing.”
“This was really a turning point book for all of us in terms of thinking how important games are,” Meleis said.
Games also shaped the theme for Meleis’ Oct. 27 state of the school address, titled “Games, Innovations and Winning Teams,” which focused on victories, challenges and new opportunities for the school, which is celebrating its 125th year in 2011.
While celebrating the school’s softball team and reliving the disappointment of the Philadelphia Phillies’ baseball season, Meleis sprinked in references to The Game of Life, Sorry!, Are You Smarter Than a Nursing Student?, Bingo, Cityville, Operation, Connect Four and Trouble.Afaf I. Meleis, FAAN, the University of Pennsylvanias Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing, applauds her staff Oct. 27 during the state of the school address in Philadelphia.
Among the highlights of Meleis’ discussion were the following:
In the spring, the school graduated its largest class since 2003, a group of 391 students.
The highly successful Living Independently for Elders program, which has 428 members, has seen a 32% increase in members during the past five years. “The picture looks good there,” Meleis said of LIFE, which celebrated its 13th anniversary this fall and has a budget of more than $38 million. Meleis said challenges could arise with upcoming Medicaid cuts.
The school has accepted a challenge from the university to diversify its faculty. “We need to reflect diversity in our society and reflect the diversity of our discipline,” Meleis said. “The president [Amy Guttman] made a commitment that there will be $100 million spent within the next five years in this university in increasing the diversity of our faculty.” Meleis said a focus also will be on drawing students from underrepresented minority groups. “We’re working very hard on that,” she said.
SAT scores of nursing students are up by 40 points over the past five years. “Our students are very smart because they chose to come to Penn Nursing,” Meleis said. “They come with such amazing qualifications.”
During the 125th anniversary year, Penn is celebrating nearly 15,000 alums who work in all 50 states, every U.S. territory and 43 countries.
Faculty members were recognized for a variety of accomplishments, including the work of Diane L. Spatz, RN-BC, PhD, FAAN, associate professor of health care of women and childbearing nursing. Spatz’s work with U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin led to a call to action from the surgeon general’s office to support breast-feeding. “Not only did Diane make a difference here on our campus … but she made a difference nationally,” Meleis said. A total of 62% of faculty members are now Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing and 11 faculty have won Penn’s Lindback Award, the highest teaching award on campus. “This school is definitely really well known for its teaching excellence,” she said.
Meleis announced the establishment of the Norma M. Lang Distinguished Lecture Award for Scholarly Practice. The lecture, which will take place inaugurally in fall 2012, honors Lang, RN, PhD, FAAN, FRCN, professor and dean emerita of nursing at Penn.
Barry Bottino is a regional editor.