Category Archives: Careers

Sep 19 2014

An American in Africa

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Sam Willis, MD, a member of the 1995 class.

Sam Willis

After completing medical school, Sam Willis decided his residency could wait. He wanted to see the world.

So he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years working as a health volunteer in Burkina Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Living among the Burkinabé, in a mud-and-brick house with no running water, Willis learned the native language along with French. Every day, he hauled water back from a well so he could take a bath outdoors.

He talked to the villagers about sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and ways to fight malnutrition. He helped set up a food bank to tide residents over during the summer dry seasons, when the rains stopped and they couldn’t plant crops.

When he came back to the United States, it was with a different worldview.

“Learning to speak another language opened up my mind to understanding how the world works,” says Willis, who today is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and practices family medicine in Houston, Texas, treating patients from disadvantaged communities.

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Aug 19 2014

The Outlook for Less Educated Health Care Workers

Health care workers who have not attained bachelor’s degrees will have an opportunity for expanded roles and upward mobility in the changing health care landscape, which emphasizes increased efficiency and lower costs, according to a new Brookings Institution report. Less educated workers can take on more responsibility for screening, patient education, health coaching and care navigation, the report says, freeing up physicians and other advanced practitioners to focus on more complex medical issues.

The report examines health care occupations with high concentrations of pre-baccalaureate workers in the nation’s top 100 metropolitan areas. Those workers in the 10 largest occupations—including nursing aides, associate-degree registered nurses, personal care aides, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants, and paramedics—number 3.8 million, accounting for nearly half of the total health care workforce in those metro areas. (The report notes that, “in the near future, the registered nurse may not be considered a ‘pre-baccalaureate’ occupation, given the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that 80 percent of RNs have bachelor’s degrees by 2020.)

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Jun 17 2014

In the Media: Summer Reading

This is part of the June 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

Nurse history buffs have two new titles to choose from this summer reading season.

In Nurses and Midwives in Nazi Germany: The“Euthanasia Programs,” Susan C. Benedict, CRNA, PhD, FAAN, professor of nursing and ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, tells the harrowing tale of how ethics in nursing and midwifery were abrogated during the Nazi era. Edited by Benedict and Linda Shields, MD, PhD, BSN, professor of nursing at James Cook University in Australia, the book was published in April.

Another new history book, by author Mary Cronk Farrell, tells a heroic story of nursing during World War II. Released in February and targeted at young readers, Pure Grit: How American World War II Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific, tells the inspiring story of American Army and Navy nurses serving in the Philippines who survived three years as prisoners of war.

The bookshelves are also offering a host of new nursing memoirs, including Duty Shoes: A Nurse’s Memoir, by Camille Foshee-Mason, RN; The Last Visit: Reflections of a Hospice Nurse, by Margaret Pecoraro Dodson, RN; and Whose Death Is It, Anyway?: A Hospice Nurse Remembers, by Sharon White, RN, BSN. 

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May 30 2014

Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge: The May 2014 Issue

Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of the Foundation’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other essential nursing issues. Following are some of the stories in the May issue.

Nursing Job Outlook Sunny

Nursing graduates can take heart from long-term projections that show they have one of the hottest degrees around. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than half a million positions for registered nurses (RNs) will open between 2012 and 2022. An additional 525,000 nurses will be needed to replace those leaving the field. However, experts say that regional variations in employment opportunities for nurses should be expected. The outlook is especially good for nurses with bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSNs) and higher.

Study: Nursing School Diversity Initiatives Mostly Successful

Do “pipeline programs” aimed at increasing student diversity in nursing schools actually work? The answer is ‘Yes...but,’ according to a study led by J. Margo Brooks Carthon, PhD, APRN, an alumnus of the RWJF New Connections program and an RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar. Her study found that significantly more Latino and Asian students enrolled in nursing schools with pipeline programs than without, but enrollment among Native American and Alaskan Indian students decreased at pipeline schools.

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May 27 2014

52 Schools of Nursing to Provide 400 Scholarships Through RWJF’s New Careers in Nursing Program

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today announced awards to 52 schools of nursing that will comprise the final cohort of its prestigious New Careers in Nursing Scholarship Program (NCIN). In the upcoming academic year, the schools will use these grants to support traditionally underrepresented students who are making a career switch to nursing through an accelerated baccalaureate or master’s degree program. NCIN is a program of RWJF and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Each NCIN Scholar has already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field, and is making a transition to nursing through an accelerated nursing degree program, which prepares students to assume the role of  registered nurse in as little as 12-18 months.

In addition to a $10,000 scholarship, NCIN scholars receive other support to help them meet the demands of an accelerated degree program. All NCIN grantee schools maintain leadership and mentoring programs for their scholars, as well as a pre-entry immersion program to help them succeed.

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May 22 2014

New Survey: In an Evolving Profession, Nurses Are Satisfied and Staying the Course

Change may be a constant for nurses today, but that hasn’t discouraged their commitment to the profession, according to a new study from the human resources company CareerBuilder. Nursing remains a rewarding and satisfying career field for the vast majority who enter it, with 93 percent of nurses surveyed reporting that they are satisfied with being a nurse, and 85 percent reporting that they are unlikely to switch careers.

The nationwide survey of nearly 900 nurses, conducted in March by Harris Poll, focused on changes in the nursing profession, differences in nursing settings, the value of various training and education programs, and desired career paths.

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May 19 2014

In the Media: New Documentary Brings Nurses to the Big Screen

This is part of the May 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

The work of nursing is often done in private, behind the closed doors of a hospital or health clinic.

But filmmaker Carolyn Jones opens those doors to the public in a new documentary about five registered nurses. Her goal is to shine a light on the hidden work that nurses do, so that viewers have a better understanding of the nursing profession and a deeper appreciation for nurses.

“The public just has no idea what goes on when a nurse walks into the room,” said Jones, a cancer survivor who credits much of her recovery to the nurses who helped her through it. “I really wanted to share that because I thought it was powerful and meaningful.”

The film, called The American Nurse, follows five nurses as they care for patients in diverse settings: rural Appalachia, a nursing home in Wisconsin, a veteran’s health care center in San Diego, a prison in Louisiana, and a maternity ward in Baltimore.

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Apr 9 2014

Obesity a Problem for Health Care Workers

The health care industry is not in the healthiest state when it comes to weight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Analyzing data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey and adjusting for confounding factors such as race, gender, and smoking, researchers identified two industries—public administration (36%) and health care and social assistance (32%)—as having significantly higher-than-average obesity rates.

Long work hours and hostile work environments were among factors that contributed to higher obesity rates, researchers found. Within the health care industry, obesity rates were lower for health care practitioners and for workers in technical occupations than they were for health care support occupations (such as home health aides and nursing assistants), “suggesting that the impact of working conditions on obesity may be especially harmful for lower-income workers,” the researchers wrote.

Out of 20 industries in the study, real estate workers had the lowest obesity rate, at just under 20 percent.

Read the study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Mar 7 2014

Listen First, Lead from Behind

One of the country’s most powerful women,  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, calls that the best advice she ever received in a recent “Influencer” post on LinkedIn. The advice, Lavizzo-Mourey writes, came from Nelson Mandela.


One of her teachers and mentors, the legendary Samuel P. Martin III, MD, taught her “the Mandela axiom.”

“Decades later,” Lavizzo-Mourey writes on LinkedIn, “it is a lesson that I continue to draw from every day.”

Lavizzo-Mourey’s post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share the best advice they’ve ever received. Read all the posts in the series here.

Read all of Lavizzo-Mourey’s LinkedIn Influencer posts here.

Feb 21 2014

Mentoring and Leadership Development: The Future of Nursing Scholars Program

An Interview with Julie A. Fairman, PhD, RN, FAAN, co-director of the Future of Nursing Scholars program, and Nightingale Professor of Nursing and director, Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, at the University of Pennsylvania.


Human Capital Blog:  What is the goal of the Future of Nursing Scholars program?

Julie Fairman: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation launched the Future of Nursing Scholars program to create a large and diverse cadre of PhD-prepared nurses who are committed to long-term leadership careers that advance science and discovery, strengthen nursing education, and bring transformational change to nursing and health care. It is vitally important that we meet the growing need for PhD-prepared nurses, not only to ensure that we address the shortage of nurse faculty members, but because nurse researchers make valuable contributions to practice and policy.  The program will fund schools of nursing to provide scholarships, and it will provide mentoring and leadership development activities to build the capacity of a select group of future nurse leaders. The program’s call for proposals launched this week, and scholars will be selected by the nursing colleges and universities that submit successful program proposals.

HCB:  Congratulations on the release of the program’s first call for proposals! As schools begin applying to participate in this program, what would you like them to keep in mind?

Fairman: We are very excited about this program. The major requirement for participation is that research-focused schools of nursing must be ready and able to graduate PhD students in three years. We understand that acquiring a PhD in nursing in three years is not the norm and that many schools have not previously graduated students within that time frame. So, schools are not necessarily ineligible if they have never operated this way, but they will need to provide a thorough description of how they will meet this obligation. We are asking applicant schools to provide information not only about their curricula, but also about their mentoring activities and faculty engagement with research. We also ask that they provide a discussion of interdisciplinary engagement in their institutions, and details about their admission, retention, and graduation of PhD nurses.

Schools that are chosen for the program will be responsible for selecting the scholars who will participate. Schools should select scholars who understand and accept the challenge of completing their PhD degrees in three years. To succeed, the scholars they select will be goal-directed, focused, and committed to long-term academic careers with a focus on science, health policy, and/or innovation. They also should be interested in health policy formulation or in the development of new evidence-based solutions to address health care problems.

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