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Questions and answers with new Widener nursing dean Laura Dzurec

Sunday May 4, 2014
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On July 1, Laura Dzurec, RN, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, will take the helm as dean of the Widener University School of Nursing in Chester, Pa. Dzurec comes to the college after almost eight years as dean and professor at the College of Nursing at Kent (Ohio) State University. There, her leadership centered on establishing a focus for faculty and students on ďself-care, wellness and mindfulness,Ē while her research focused on related dynamics and especially on ways to address workplace bullying.

For Dzurec, Widener will be the latest stop on a nursing education journey that spans multiple decades and includes schools in many different areas of the U.S.

Q: How did you come to be a nurse? And how did you come to choose nursing education?

A: From my earliest memories, Iíve always wanted to be a nurse. As a student, I quickly realized that education was my first love in nursing. Iíve practiced clinically in a variety of settings, but I believe that as an educator I touch far more lives than I ever could in direct practice in the way that best suits my skills and interests.

Q: You were at Kent State for some time. Why did you take on this new role at Widener?

A: By happenstance I had an opportunity to work with several faculty from Widener through the international nursing honor society. They told me about the position here, and the more I learned about Widener, the more intrigued I became with opportunities Widener offered. Iíve found Widener to be an open and just place ó just, as in Ďjustice.í I have been consistently impressed with the people there, both staff and faculty.

Q: When you say Ďjust,í what exactly are you talking about here?

A: Just culture is an interesting notion discussed in-depth by David Marx. At issue is the fact that everyone makes mistakes. Many times, making those mistakes is a function of system issues ó they happen because things lined up to support the mistake. Just culture isnít about blame. Itís about appropriate remediation because mistakes happen. In a just culture, mistakes are handled in a way that honors and respects both employees and the system with everyone working together to improve the workplace. At the same time, those individuals whose mistakes are intentional, for whatever reason, are dealt with appropriately.

Q: What will be first on your to-do list at Widener?

A: Iím going to talk with the people there, get to know them and get to know what they believe works well and not so well in the school of nursing. Together, we will develop an overview of what aspects of the workplace environment we should keep and what aspects we should change. As for my philosophy, I plan to support a positive culture that maintains values and is fair. One thing is for sure we will focus on Widenerís ongoing work in community service to see if there arenít some things we can do as a school to continue and strengthen our contributions to Widenerís efforts.

Q: As nursing continues to evolve, how important do you believe it will be for nurses to obtain a BSN?

A: I really think all graduates need to complete their BSNs. Nursing today demands highly-qualified people who can think critically. Given the 2010 Institute of Medicine recommendations and the expectations of Magnet facilities, most nursing schools are encouraging their students to pursue their BSNs immediately, even if studentsí initial preparation is via the associate degree.

Q: What do you believe are the primary challenges facing nursing in the next decade or so?

A: We have to find ways to bridge longstanding gaps between nursing education and nursing practice. The realities and expectations of these two arenas differ and they become more salient as the complexity of patient care continues to escalate. The key to graduating optimally prepared nurses is to enhance the communication between educators and practitioners so that we can assess our respective needs, recognize how best to meet the complex needs of patients, consider the scope of skills and limitations of new graduates, and then figure out whatís available to us to fix the gaps. We need to strengthen the conversation, to collectively speak from one perspective. Given the complexity of patient care and the rate of change fostered by technology, we need to be sure that as educators and as practitioners we have access to cutting edge information and that we maximize opportunities available to us. Thatís going to be our biggest challenge.

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