Mary Anne Peters has played a role in educating many nurses throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
But in recent years what Peters, RN, PhD, CNE, chairwoman of the school of nursing at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., said she has come to truly value is helping nurses progress.
“Thats a great task that lies in front of us,” Peters said. “We are creating great ladders to advance nursing at all levels.”
Since July, Peters has served as president of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Nursing Schools Association. She will serve a two-year term in the top spot of the statewide organization, which helps baccalaureate and higher degree nursing education programs in Pennsylvania plan and implement programs for growth, development and advancement. PHENSA provides a forum and meeting place for those who lead schools of nursing to assemble, learn about the current healthcare issues, discuss ideas and strategies and plan for nursings future.
“There are issues that affect us all as nurses,” Peters said. “But there are also issues facing nurses here that are completely different than what’s facing nurses in other parts of the country and in different parts of the commonwealth.
“An organization like PHENSA brings us together, from western Pennsylvania, the central part of the commonwealth, from Erie, and from the tri-state region, to give us all a broader perspective beyond the [issues] we each face daily at our individual schools.”Mary Anne Peters, RN
Peters became involved with PHENSA in 2005, when she was the director of the graduate nursing program at La Salle University in Philadelphia. While not yet eligible to serve in PHENSA, Peters attended the groups semiannual meetings until she joined PHENSA in 2008 after becoming the chairwoman of the nursing school at Eastern University. She said the PHENSA presidency was a role she hesitated to accept, at first.
But after a series of meetings with other PHENSA members and “a little bit of very good salesmanship” from PHENSA officers, Peters agreed to place her name in the running. She was elected without opposition as president-elect two years ago.
Deborah Garrison, RN, PhD, dean of the school of nursing at Widener University in Chester, Pa., was among those PHENSA officers who encouraged Peters to pursue the job. Garrison, who served as president of PHENSA while Peters served as president-elect, described Peters as “a visionary, but humble leader who brings teams of people together in a way that energizes them, which results in innovation and forward momentum.”
Peters outlined a number of initiatives she hoped would be achieved during her term. She and Garrison said one of PHENSAs roles will be to help the various nursing education programs implement some of the recommendations spelled out in the Future of Nursing report, published by the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Specifically, they referenced the goals of increasing the number of nurses with BSN degrees to 80% and doubling the number of nurses holding a doctorate by 2020.
“We want our schools to be educating our nurses to the highest level we can and then see the nurses practicing at those levels,” Peters said.
While encouraging nurses to achieve higher levels of education will remain a key part of PHENSAs mission in the next two years, Peters said, she also hopes to advance other goals, as well.
She noted that PHENSA will seek to encourage nurses to join the ranks of nurse educators, particularly educators holding doctorate degrees.
“Were very short on those in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation,” Peters said.
Once those educators move up to higher roles, Peters said, PHENSA serves as an ideal organization to help connect those educators with mentors — deans, department chairs and program directors with the experience to help guide nursing educators into greater degrees of success.
Peters said such mentoring relationships will be key, not just to PHENSAs future success, but to the future of nursing education as the leadership is replenished.
Beyond the fostering of new nursing education leaders, Peters said, PHENSA will focus strongly on initiatives that include increasing the number of research grants going to nursing programs in Pennsylvania and helping nursing programs at all levels stay abreast of new regulations and healthcare reforms coming from the state and federal governments.
“This is a very changing time,” Peters said. “We have healthcare reform changing things at a very rapid pace, and we are an information resource to help decipher what it all means for nurses and how things affect all of our different nursing education programs.”
Jonathan Bilyk is a freelance writer.