Pam Fuller, Dean of Online Nursing School

Profiles in Nursing

Pam Fuller, Dean of Online Nursing School

A new kind of education

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Becoming a nurse is not everyone’s childhood dream. Certainly it wasn’t that way for Pam Fuller. Her first job out of high school was in retail, just an ordinary entry-level routine kind of job. But when she saw an ad for a hospital unit clerk job that paid better and then got the job, a whole new world opened up — the world of nursing.

She had no family support or people cheering her on, but within several years she had become a registered nurse with an associate’s degree from Phoenix Community College. (Like most AA degrees, hers took considerably more than the touted two years.)

Soon she was, in her own words, a “hot-shot” critical care nurse. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that she needed more education, more knowledge. She began to develop a trait she sees as necessary for all nurses: a dedication to lifelong learning. Over the years she has earned a bachelor’s, then a master’s and finally a doctoral degree. Now she is the dean of the University of Phoenix College of Nursing. In many ways she is typical of the many post-licensure nurses who flock to the University of Phoenix’s flexible and innovative programs.

Beyond Technology

While her advanced education was primarily what she calls “ground” or bricks-and-mortar, Fuller now oversees the education of 13,000 nursing students who take 80 percent of their coursework online. The evolution has come not just because technology allows it, but also because today’s student are so tuned in to new developments that this is what they demand. The average nursing student is no longer a young girl free to pursue her education somewhat at leisure, but rather men and women who often combine full-time jobs, families and school.

Some of University of Phoenix programs have been designed with other organizations, like the Veterans Administration, to purposely allow nurses to continue to work while advancing their education. Digitalized texts, online chat, and virtual labs all contribute, along with the university’s experienced, working faculty.

Advice: Get Involved

Fuller is a believer in a profession that is made up not of “appliance nurses,” those working just to get a new washing machine or coffee table, but of those who are actively involved in professional organizations. She is a member of the American Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau, the national nurse honor society. Recently Fuller was awarded that organization’s 2011 International Award of Excellence for efforts in chapter support.

With such active involvement in the profession, what does she see as the biggest problem facing nursing education? The dearth of doctorally prepared nurses (fewer than three percent nationally), and the lack of effective clinical rotations for students. Combine this with the heavy patient loads of the working nurse, and there is more than enough for any educator to do in a profession that Fuller says is “hard on the feet and hard on the heart.” As dean of the school that graduates the highest number of post-licensure nurses, she is in the thick of things.

Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN is a Working Nurse staff writer with extensive hospital and community-based nursing experience.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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