Director of nursing school wins award, develops projects

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    A TCU nursing educator has received an exclusive health profession award and plans to use it to TCU’s advantage.Dr. Paulette Burns, director of the Harris School of Nursing, is one of 20 Fellows chosen by the Robert Wood Foundation in 2005 and said she hopes it will create more graduate opportunities for TCU nurses.

    “I want to expand clinical and organizational skills at the doctoral level to match the health care needs of today,” Burns said.

    In its seventh year, the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows Program selects 20 qualified applicants to complete a three-year program in which they must develop projects with national impact, Burns said.

    She said she is in the process of deciding how to develop her project, but hopes it will increase the opportunities for graduate nurses and possibly create a doctorate program for nurses.

    No schools in Texas currently have a Doctorate in Nursing Practice program, Burns said.

    Dr. Rhonda Keen-Payne, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said the foundation wants new systems and innovative ideas to come out of the projects.

    Susan Weeks, clinical facilities coordinator for the nursing school, said Burns can do just that.

    “I believe that she possesses the motivation, commitment and energy needed to make significant contributions to the health care system,” Weeks said.

    Beyond the outcome of her project, Burns said TCU benefits other ways from the fellowship.

    Burns said she must complete a three-year program with leadership and educational sessions with some of the nation’s leaders, which will give TCU access to influential figures.

    “The award increases our connections with national leaders in nursing and health care,” Burns said.

    During the four years Burns has been at TCU, she has overseen the implementation of a graduate program for nurses and a program allowing students with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to obtain a nursing degree in 15 months, Weeks said.

    “She is constantly looking for innovative ways to better TCU’s nursing programs, undergraduate and graduate,” said Jodi English, a graduate student who researched under Burns.

    Burns said that since her arrival, the undergraduate program has grown by 40 percent.

    For most of her 34 years in nursing, Burns has been in the education system. Before coming to TCU, Burns said she was an administrator and faculty member at University of Oklahoma College of Nursing.

    “I liked influencing future nurses and helping them to be successful,” Burns said.

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