APRIL 17, 2006 | In the more than half a century she’s spent as a national leader in the nursing profession, Claire M. Fagin, Ph.D., R.N., has been frustrated by some key challenges.
Fagin, a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, which has hailed her as a living legend, recalled being asked recently that if she could do anything for nursing, what it would be.
“To me, my answers once sounded simple but are so complex that they have not been able to be accomplished in my 50-plus years in nursing,” Fagin told University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Nursing faculty, students and other guests during her March 29 speech “Leadership for What?”
Three issues must be addressed, she said. The most important is to retool educational requirements for nurses, which is out of kilter with that of other professions. Nursing professionals seek parity and equality and want to work in an interdisciplinary manner with other health professionals, she said.
“And we expect to produce results like these in a two-year program leading to licensure? In whose dreams?” she said. “It is unconscionable to believe that we can prepare the registered nurse … a person who has parity with members of other professions … at anything less than the baccalaureate program.”
Despite many studies pointing to the oversupply of associate degrees and undersupply of baccalaureate degrees, she said, very little funding has come from foundations or the federal government to address the problem. “One would think it would have received massive funding,” she said.
Second on her list is fixing the work place to make nursing “constant and consistent with the need for health care and enabling nurses to practice at their full potential.”
Third is “having professionals and the lay public – including the powerful media – recognize what nursing contributes to the health field or at the very least not demean nursing and nurses with their traditional representations.”
After two centuries of development, Fagin said, the nursing profession is still on the cusp of its potential, which is why leadership is so important in the field.
“We think we see our potential but seem to be unable to reach it because of factors out of our control, or so we often think,” she said.
She advised her listeners to choose definable and reachable goals and to find allies to help reach them.
Fagin’s appearance was sponsored by the Arkansas Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence, located in the UAMS College of Nursing. Fagin completed a 15-year deanship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and was the first woman to be interim president of an Ivy League university. She was the founding director of the John A. Hartford Building Academic Geriatric Nursing Capacity Program.
Because of her leadership in this program, the postdoctoral fellowship program has been named in her honor. Postdoctoral awardees will now be known as “Claire M. Fagin Fellows.”