During National Nurses Week, Penn State recognizes nurse educators

Nurse educators have a critical role in helping to address the country’s nursing shortage by choosing a career path in teaching.

For National Nurses Week, May 6–12, Penn State is recognizing several nurse educators who have graduated from its doctoral program and are now on its faculty teaching future nurses.

Susan E. Maynard, Megan Murphy, Mary Alyce Nelson, and Beth Ann White have graduated with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and are among the faculty members who teach for the Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing.

As nurse educators, they said, they are giving back to the profession that means so much to them.

“I love cultivating new nursing leaders who will bring their expertise to both clinical and non-clinical areas,” said Maynard, a 2021 DNP graduate who joined the faculty the same year. “My goal is to empower students to see themselves in a wide range of leadership roles, and I enjoy seeing the transformation from their first class to graduation.”

A doctorate in nursing

The Doctor of Nursing Practice program is offered exclusively online at Penn State, through Penn State World Campus, and enables its students to continue working in clinical settings. It also gives them the chance to apply what they learn in real time in clinical practice.

The online DNP program has two tracks, a nurse practitioner option for Pennsylvania residents and a nursing leadership option for nurses anywhere in the United States.

Mary Alyce Nelson is an associate teaching professor in the Nese College of Nursing and the director of undergraduate nursing education at University Park and for the online RN to BSN program offered through Penn State World Campus.

She graduated with a Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2019.

In her career, she has worked as a staff nurse, in administration as a director of nursing, and as a director and educator of a hospital-based nursing program. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2015, she was the director of nursing and assistant director of clinical services for Penn State University Health Services.

She said she wanted a doctorate to gain more knowledge in the field. She has always been clinically oriented and wanted to apply research to practice.

A recent graduate gives back to the profession

Megan Murphy is a recent graduate of the Doctor of Nursing Practice’s family nurse practitioner program. She began teaching in Penn State’s undergraduate nursing program in 2016 as an adjunct clinical faculty member and became part of the full-time faculty in 2018.

Murphy worked for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in several inpatient units, and when she relocated to State College, she worked in pediatric home health as a nurse educator and supervisor.

“I feel that I am giving back to the nursing profession by educating undergraduate nursing students as they prepare to enter the nursing profession,” Murphy said. “My direction has always been to provide real-world advice and prepare them to be novice nurses who have the right skills to be successful. Nursing provides a wonderful career and only offers them more opportunities for professional growth in a time of shortage.”

Murphy teaches the undergraduate pediatric nursing course, health assessment labs, and medical/surgical nursing clinicals in hospital settings. She also coordinates clinical experiences in the local community and serves as the faculty adviser for the University Park chapter of the Student Nurses Association.

Connecting with peers online

Susan E. Maynard is an assistant teaching professor and clinical placement coordinator.

Maynard started her nursing career at Lewistown Hospital, working in telemetry, after graduating with her bachelor’s in 1996. She has worked with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and Stanford Hospital in California. Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2021, she was the stroke coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College.

At Penn State, Maynard teaches graduate-level courses and is the clinical placement coordinator. She ensures graduate nursing students get valuable clinical and practicum experiences.

As an online learner, she said, she was able to connect with students from across the U.S.

“I made good friends through the program, and our interactions were almost fully online,” Maynard said. “I had the opportunity to learn about health care environments different from my own and work with other students that had a wide variety of interesting backgrounds.”

She said several of her courses included topics of quality and safety and system-wide leadership. In her role at Mount Nittany Medical Center, she took knowledge from those courses to apply to the stroke program, using data from national organizations to make improvements.

Staying current in practice while teaching future nurses

Beth Ann White is a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP) at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital and an associate teaching professor in the Nese College of Nursing. She currently teaches in its graduate-level online program.

“As a nurse educator, I have the best of all worlds in teaching and clinical practice,” said White, who also is a certified nurse educator. “Teaching is giving back to our future nurses, and I hope I instill the passion for nursing that I still carry into my students. Staying current in practice allows me to discuss and describe changes in practice, current issues nurses face, and stay on top of our ever-changing health care landscape.”

White, who has more than 30 years of clinical experience, graduated in 2018 with a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She completed the degree while working with Geisinger.

“I was able to fulfill my roles as a nurse practitioner, wife, mother, daughter, friend, and student,” she said. “Doing course work occurred late at night into the early morning hours and on weekends. It was a commitment from everyone in my life, as I say they all earned the degree with me.”

White said she was able to implement a quality improvement project from her studies in her work. The project on oral care in long-term care focused on enhancing nursing staff’s knowledge of the relationship between oral care and overall health. It evaluated staff beliefs and perceptions of oral care, addressed how to handle resistant behaviors in this population of people, and called for on-site audits to evaluate compliance with the implementation of an oral care evidence-based protocol.

White is the coordinator for the college’s family practice and adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner programs. In that role, she works closely with students to review their plans of study to ensure their progress is on target.

“I really enjoy teaching online in the graduate program because I see myself in most of the students,” she said. “They want to be more, do more, and make a difference in caring for others while trying to juggle home life, work life, and school life.”

The need for nurses and nurse educators

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of positions in the field of nursing to grow through 2031, with increasing demand for Registered Nurses (RNs), Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), Nurse Practitioners, and Nurse Anesthetists, among others.

However, a study published in 2022 in Health Affairs showed that the number of RNs decreased by more than 100,000, the greatest drop over the past four decades.

“Nurse educators are integral to the future health and wellness of our world. Without our nurse educators, who guide and inspire the next generation to find and nurture their passion, the nation’s nursing shortage cannot be lessened,” said Rae Brown, associate dean for undergraduate education at the Nese College, who is also a teaching professor and certified nurse educator.

“Mentoring is such a critical component to setting our aspiring nurses up for success, and nurse educators fulfill that calling with each cohort they teach.”

A Penn State nursing degree online

Penn State World Campus offers a Penn State education online, with more than 200 degrees and certificates available, including nursing degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

The nursing programs are offered in partnership with the Nese College of Nursing.

Learn more about the nursing degree programs that are offered online through Penn State World Campus.

Media Contact:
Mike Dawson