On Jan. 14, Jane Kirschling, RN, PhD, FAAN, was named dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore. Before accepting the position, she had served as dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing since 2006. Previously, she held administrative and faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine, the University of Rochester and the Oregon Health & Science University.
She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Executive Fellows Program and was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2009. At the national level, Kirschling has been active in the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, serving as president of the board of directors in 2002 and 2003.
We talked with Kirschling about her new position and her plans for education.
Nurse.com: How do you plan to transition the school’s advanced practice program from the MSN to the DNP?
Jane Kirschling: There is a national movement led by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing — in which I serve as president — to move advance practice nursing to the doctoral level for nurse practitioners, clinical nursing specialists, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists. AACN member schools endorsed this transition back in 2004 and set 2015 as the target date for advanced practice programs to transition to the DNP. This preceded the IOM report, which called for doubling the number of nurses with a doctoral degree by 2020.
The DNP movement will really help us to accomplish this goal. Students will have the option of going for the PhD for nurse scientists or the DNP to prepare for the highest clinical degree in the profession.
Nursing schools nationwide are going through a similar process as they transition to the DNP. Faculty made that commitment at the University of Maryland, and we already have a masters-to-DNP program. We are transitioning to a BSN-to-DNP program — taking out that middle step. In fall 2014, we will admit our first cohort of nurses into the BSN-to-DNP program. Getting to this point has required a lot of work at the school of nursing in terms of curricular redesign.
Nursing curricula in this country are determined by AACN “Essentials” documents, which were developed through a national, consensus-building process. The faculty had to take that Essentials document and redesign the curriculum, actually rebuild it. That’s one of the things I’ll be doing — making sure the faculty have the resources they need to fully implement the BSN-to-DNP program.
N: At the University of Kentucky, you oversaw a robust clinical research enterprise. How will that experience help you as you transition to UMSON?
JK: The University of Maryland has a strong commitment to research. We also have a long history in terms of supporting evidence-based practice — that is, a translation of knowledge quicker to the practice environment so people have the ability to receive care that is informed by the most state-of-the-art knowledge available. At the University of Kentucky, we had a close relationship with the clinical side. That is true here, too, given our close working relationship with the University of Maryland Medical System and hospitals. It’s a bigger system here, and I’m really looking forward to moving forward with that relationship. The complexities of healthcare require new ways of doing the work that nurses and physicians do, of providing the right care at the right time and making sure we don’t have excess cost in the system as we deal with the expensive healthcare problems in this country.
N: Your clinical expertise is in mental health nursing with a focus on end-of-life care. Would you like to put an increased focus on those issues at UMSON?
JK: Actually, we have a very strong mental health program, especially with the graduate program that is ranked seventh in the nation. It’s a phenomenally strong degree track, and I’m looking forward to working with that faculty and the continuum of people on the clinical side. Great attention also is paid to palliative care here. From my career standpoint, palliative care is relatively new in the country. As dean of nursing, I’m pleased to see it exists in the Baltimore community. My emphasis has been more on workforce issues — the pipeline of healthcare providers, making sure nurses are prepared for the workforce. What we know about healthcare today is that, increasingly, all providers need to be ready to work together in teams.
N: It also was announced you would serve as the director of interprofessional education at the University of Maryland? What are some of the things you hope to accomplish in that role?
JK: I think that’s part of what I was talking about — providing exceptional opportunities across the disciplines. We need to learn from each other, with one another and about one another. When nurses and other providers enter the healthcare workforce, they need to know how to work effectively in teams. We have a number of initiatives already under way. Our goal is to strengthen those, to bring those to maturity, and in many ways be responsive to employers’ need for all healthcare providers to work together in teams.
N: You’re also on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Board of Directors and began a two-year term as president in 2012. What are some of your goals for that organization?
JK: The AACN represents BSN and higher degree programs — more than 700 in the country. The work we do is on behalf of patient care — promoting lifelong learning and working very hard with our member schools to give them tools and resources to help them optimize their learning environments. We also play a strong role in term of advocacy at the federal level. Our member schools are the ones who represent the research engine in the U.S. in regard to issues that are important to nursing. We are committed to ensuring we have a sufficient pipeline of nursing faculty because without that supply we won’t be able to meet the nation’s growing demand for a well-educated nursing workforce.
N: Overall, what do you see as the future of nursing education, especially in regard to how nurses are prepared to practice and lead?
JK: I would say that the IOM report was helpful with this. There is a groundswell of understanding that we need a highly educated nursing workforce. For some, this will be early in their career; for others, over the course of their career. We are very committed to having a sufficient number of nurses to meet the needs of this country, but we have to ensure that we have an adequate number of faculty, and we have to continue to invest at the federal level in nursing science and curriculum. We need nurses who are deeply committed to learning across the course of their career and able to lead innovation in a healthcare system undergoing rapid change.
Joe Grace is a regional editor.