Vital Signs Archive
New Dean Shares Vision for School of Nursing
Kathy P. Parker, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.
More than a dozen snow globes huddle on a window ledge in her new office, each orb encasing a famous city in perpetual winter – Paris, London, Philadelphia, New York. Just a few feet away, silk lilacs bloom – her favorite flower. Together, this study in contrasts only solidifies the point: Kathy P. Parker, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., was destined to move from Atlanta (Emory School of Nursing) to Rochester, where she’ll lead the School of Nursing (SON) as its next dean. Below, Vital Signs spoke to Parker about her vision for the school, and for the profession at large.
VS: What attracted you to the SON at University of Rochester?
Parker: The SON has an excellent reputation. In addition, the University environment is outstanding, one in which nurses have numerous options related to research, teaching, practice – and even entrepreneurship. The emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration within the University provides limitless opportunities to enhance the discipline of nursing.
VS: So there’s much more to a nursing career than clinical practice. Still, it’s clear that you place a priority on it.
Parker: Absolutely. Clinical practice has always been extremely important to me. Research informs clinical practice, and practice impacts patients. Of course, this process can also flow in reverse – where observations made at the bedside may spark an idea that one day grows into the development of new questions and new treatments. This is what translational research is all about!
VS: You talk animatedly about translational research – why is that?
Parker: Enhancing the breadth, depth, and quality of research so that findings can more optimally yield human health benefit is the heart and soul of URMC’s new Strategic Plan. I believe nurses, because of their constant connection with patients, are in a unique position to inform this type of research. As members of a research team, they bring this wealth of astute observations and questions. More and more, I will be advocating that our nursing faculty collaborate on cross-disciplinary ventures with other Medical Center investigators – especially those in key signature program areas. In that respect, I see the SON playing a key role in the CTSI (Clinical Translational Science Institute).
VS: How has your own research informed clinical practice?
Parker: While a nurse practitioner in a nephrology clinic, I cared for patients with kidney disease. These individuals struggled to get good sleep, and their constant exhaustion cast a shadow on everything with which they had to cope. I wondered if a solid night’s sleep would improve their quality of life – even though it wouldn’t cure their disease. Thus, I became an avid sleep researcher. That’s just one example of how practice can inform research. It’s absolutely imperative that the arenas of education, research and clinical practice overlap.
VS: What are you studying now?
Parker: I am continuing my work with dialysis patients and have also recently completed a study of sleep patterns in patients with advanced cancer. I will expand this research in the near term.
VS: What are the greatest challenges that lie ahead of the School?
Parker: We already have outstanding faculty and students but need to plan for the future. Increasing our visibility at the local, national, and international levels is very important, as we must continue to be a destination for the best faculty and brightest students. We are fortunate that there are numerous opportunities for the SON to further distinguish itself in the rich environment of U of R. One particular opportunity I am exploring could enhance our DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program; presently, this is very much a preliminary idea, but I’m interested to see if there is the potential for us to allow these students to simultaneously pursue MBAs. That way, they could graduate empowered with the business knowledge essential for developing new systems of care.