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On November 9, the Commonwealth of Virginia held the 2013 Nurse of the Year Awards Gala in Richmond. At the event, 21 outstanding nurses were awarded for their service, compassion, and dedication to improve the health of Virginia’s citizens. Of the 21 recipients, who were selected from over 500 nominations, two are members of JMU’s Department of Nursing: Assistant Professors Dr. Sandra Annan and Dr. Julie Strunk.
Since joining the nursing department at JMU in 2008, Dr. Annan has become a mentor to students starting their first semester in the program. The students she works with are usually excited about the program but still have a lot to learn. In addition to helping students overcome their anxieties about making mistakes with patients and the field itself, Dr. Annan has worked hard to maintain the balance between being supportive to her students and holding them accountable for their study efforts and responsibilities.
Recently, Dr. Annan aided in the revision of the nursing department’s curriculum to help enable JMU’s service-oriented students to gain hands-on experience. By placing students in a clinical setting during every semester of their studies, those in the JMU nursing program are able to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in class to help members of the Shenandoah Valley, from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville to Winchester. In the future, Dr. Annan plans to continue to evolve as an educator and, expand and, explore her research interests in issues related to physical and sexual violence
As a former JMU student, Dr. Strunk is familiar with the rigor of the nursing program. As an alumna (’79), who originally graduated with an Bachelor of Science in Health Science, Dr. Strunk took time off from being a nurse in Harrisonburg City Schools to come back to JMU after the Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) program was created. In 2008, after receiving her BSN and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN, in 2007 and 2008 respectively), gaining teaching experience and working on her PhD, Dr. Strunk was hired as the Pediatric Course Coordinator at JMU.
The March of Dimes recognized Dr. Strunk and Dr. Annan for their dedication to student success inside and outside of the classroom. Dr. Strunk has provided JMU and other nursing students the opportunity to work and learn in a clinical setting with the development and expansion of child development programs hosted by JMU and Eastern Mennonite University students and afternoon programs for pregnant teens in area high schools. These educational programs help young mothers complete high school by providing on-site childcare and also create a nurturing and supportive environment where teens are taught parenting skills.
In the classroom, Dr. Annan ensures students stay skilled, relevant, and employable by being one of the first faculty members who has implemented electronic medical records and testing software in her courses. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers are currently transitioning from charting patients’ records on paper to keeping them electronically. To keep up with the change, JMU nursing students now use iPads to chart records during their Health Assessment course and clinical practicums. JMU’s incoming nursing students will use iPads to take exams through a secure testing software called ExamSoft which allows professors to provide immediate feedback to students and to collect data on the reliability and validity of each test question.
The mission of JMU’s program in nursing, as Dr. Strunk states, “is to prepare nursing leaders to influence a changing profession, society, health care system and world.” She adds that the whole department, the students, faculty, and staff, make the program stand out by meeting the “Be the Change” challenge at JMU and in the field.
In addition to child development programs and other clinical opportunities, JMU nursing students can help “Be the Change” as a part of the JMU Nursing Student Association. With the help of Dr. Annan as Co-Advisor, the association has hosted, organized, and participated in an impressive number of activities aimed to benefit JMU and the surrounding areas. Among other things, the JMU Nursing Student Association has gone Christmas caroling at local nursing homes, sponsored blood and a variety of item drives, collected 40lbs of pop tops for the Ronald McDonald House, participated in the Out of the Darkness suicide awareness walk, held Mental Health Awareness Day at JMU which included posting roughly 1000 balloons in ISAT and Burruss Hall to bring attention to the impact of mental illness, and has won the Virginia Student Nurses Associations’ Most Active Constituency award for years.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for the health of those who are pregnant and babies. Now celebrating its 75th anniversary, the organization recognizes the vital roles nurses play in practice, education, and leadership for the healthcare community each year at the Nurse of the Year Award Galas held nationwide.