Letter from the Dean: Summer 2021

Dr. Sylvia Brown

Greetings friends,

A new academic year is upon us, and I am excited about the possibilities it will bring in the College of Nursing. Before we set our sights on the future, however, I wanted to take time to highlight the incredible achievements and contributions from our students, faculty, staff, alumni and our community of supporters over the past year and during the pandemic. In the true spirit of Pirate Nurses, each of you transformed change and uncertainty into creativity and resilience.

Let’s look back together at what we accomplished during this challenging and remarkable time—and celebrate the promise a new academic year holds for the College of Nursing.

Sylvia T. Brown, EdD, RN, CNE, ANEF
Dean & Professor, ECU College of Nursing


Unsung heroes: The College of Nursing’s IT team was recognized for its work to keep students, faculty and staff connected from remote locations during the pandemic. “When we are all on site, there is a robust internet, but now we are trying to help end users, our faculty and staff, who live all over eastern North Carolina and all have varying degrees of internet connection speeds,” said Conley Evans, interim director of IT for the college.

Hall of Fame: More than20 nurse leaders officially joined the ranks of the ECU College of Nursing’s most esteemed alumni and supporters on Friday, March 5, while two received the honorable Distinguished Alumni title during the college’s virtual Hall of Fame ceremony. Because the pandemic forced the celebration of the 2019-2020 inductees to be postponed, this year’s celebration honored both 2019-20 and 2020-21 inductees and Distinguished Alumni. The group of 22 inductees and two Distinguished Alumni — Dr. Mary Chatman and Dr. Kimberly Hardy — comprised the largest group honored at once since the Hall of Fame’s inception in 2011, when the college inducted 40 inaugural members.

Future feature: College of Nursing student Marianne Congema wanted to be a nurse since fifth grade, when her mother had a heart attack followed by an extensive hospital stay. “I was inspired by the compassion and brilliance that the nurses displayed in the care they provided for her,” Congema said. “Since then, my educational journey has reflected this passion.” Congema’s story was featured as an ECU News Pirate Profile in 2020.

Top ranks: ECU’s nursing graduate programs were recognized among the best for veterans in the 2021 U.S. News Best Online Programs released Jan. 26. Ranking 27th overall out of 194 online master’s nursing programs — in the top 15% in the country — ECU Nursing was the highest ranked UNC institution for veterans, recognized as ninth in the nation in the best online graduate programs for veterans. Concentrations in nursing education ranked sixth and nursing administration/leadership was 12th. The rankings for best programs for veterans were based entirely on responses to the peer assessment survey. ECU has 325 nursing students enrolled in online master’s degree programs. Of those, 33 are listed as military veterans or active service members.

Simulation accreditation: The Society for Simulation in Healthcare granted full accreditation to the College of Nursing’s simulation program, making ECU the only public university in the state with a fully accredited nursing simulation program. The program’s accreditation — in the area of Teaching and Education — was officially announced as part of a virtual ceremony during the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) conference in January.

Legacy Launch: Coinciding with and in honor of the College of Nursing’s 60th anniversary celebration, the ECU Medical and Health Sciences Foundation Inc. kicked off a new initiative called Legacy Launch. The initiative aims to raise funds for scholarships and, at every graduation beginning in December 2020, effectively “launch” new College of Nursing graduates into the profession with customized Pirate Nurse personal protective equipment.

Proceeds will benefit the College of Nursing Beacon Scholarship Fund. The ECU Beacon Scholarship Program is a key initiative to help ECU recruit and retain talented undergraduate students. In Fall 2021, we will welcome our first class of Beacon Nursing Students. These students will receive a $1,000 scholarship each year for their junior and senior years in the nursing program. A gift to Legacy Launch not only honors a new Pirate Nurse, it also provides scholarship support to future nursing students.

Preceptor honors: The College of Nursing recognized 13 nurses from hospitals and health care agencies throughout the state and beyond with the inaugural Preceptor of the Year honors. Each year, hundreds of nurses volunteer their time to serve as preceptors to undergraduate and graduate College of Nursing students. Many preceptors and clinical partners have worked with the college for more than a decade to help educate both graduate and undergraduate nursing students. These preceptors educate students — spending more than 100 hours working with each student — in clinical areas, assigning tasks, overseeing their work and providing feedback to help each student grow.

Pandemic and Emergency Response

The COVID-19 pandemic provided students and faculty numerous opportunities to use education and expertise to care for their communities.

Vaccination vanguard: Students from the College of Nursing put their skills into action at vaccine clinics in the East, participating in a historic effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June of this year, the College of Nursing’s faculty, staff and students had provided more than 3,300 hours of COVID-related support across the state since the pandemic began.

Back in action: Many nursing students returned to clinical experiences in mid-2020. Students from the College of Nursing’s Nurse Anesthesia doctoral program were the first health sciences students to return to instructional spaces in late May, following the university’s pivot to virtual instruction in March. “We were excited to come back and happy that we’ve been given the opportunity to continue our education,” said John Purvis, a two-time ECU graduate and student in the Nurse Anesthesia program. The nursing students returned for clinical simulation and clinical practicum experiences.

Mobile health: Beginning in September 2020, ECU’s Healthier Lives at School and Beyond School-Based Telemedicine Program used an ECU Transit bus to visit schools in Duplin County to connect students and staff with quality behavioral health, nutrition, dental and acute medical care services. The mobile unit has been used to provide screenings for more than students, with additional visits planned. The program, created through a $1.2 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), initially screened students using telemedicine—secure video connections between the schools and health care providers. Because many schools shifted to virtual learning, the Healthier Lives program made a transition as well by using the mobile unit. College of Nursing students provided vital care for patients during their screenings.

Emergency education: The East Carolina University College of Nursing will offer four new courses in Healthcare Emergency and Disaster Management beginning in fall 2021, making ECU the first university in the state to offer this kind of training. The graduate-level courses will increase nurses’ knowledge of emergency management and disaster preparation, response and recovery in the event of natural disasters, bioterrorism attacks, mass casualty events and pandemics.The East Carolina University College of Nursing will offer four new courses in Healthcare Emergency and Disaster Management beginning in fall 2021, making ECU the first university in the state to offer this kind of training. The graduate-level courses will increase nurses’ knowledge of emergency management and disaster preparation, response and recovery in the event of natural disasters, bioterrorism attacks, mass casualty events and pandemics.

Nursing Excellence

This time has been business as usual when it comes to the college’s ability to assess its rich past, celebrate accomplishment through education and patient care and make strides toward a more diverse community and curriculum.

Welcome aboard: The ECU College of Nursing officially welcomed 142 future nurses in the spring semester with a modified ceremony to safely celebrate their admission to the College of Nursing and introduction to the nursing profession. Students received a golden lamp pin signifying service and light as part of the twice-annual Lamp of Learning ceremony that serves an official welcome to the college’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. The celebration included 122 traditional BSN students as well as 20 students in the accelerated second-degree BSN (ABSN) program.

Celebrating black history: As our nation grappled with ongoing racial divide and disparities, we’ve taken a hard look at ourselves as individuals, as health care providers and as a college, asking, “How do we do better?” Dr. Mark Newell’s keynote speech during our annual Black History Celebration highlighted how centuries of misconceptions about and mistreatment of African Americans continue to cause health care disparities among the Black community today, the ways these issues contribute to ongoing inequities and how health care providers can combat them.

Diversity Advisory Council: The College of Nursing created a Diversity Advisory Council several years ago to ensure a rich and diverse experience for students, faculty and staff from all cultures and backgrounds. The council plans events to raise college-wide awareness of the value of diversity and inclusion and fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. Respect, dignity, compassion and inclusion for all are integral to the CON’s organizational culture which transcends to the nursing care provided by students and faculty. A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement was recently approved by the College of Nursing faculty and staff to express our renewed commitment to these initiatives.  In addition a new link to our website has been added to our webpage that includes this statement, shares highlights of programs offered by the College of Nursing, and provides resources.

The council consists of members representing both faculty, staff and students. It is co-chaired by a faculty member and a staff member.

Biofeedback benefits: A team led by the College of Nursing has been using biofeedback to help patients as they recover from COVID-19. The Biofeedback Lab is led by Dr. Linda Bolin, assistant professor in the College of Nursing’s Department of Nursing Science and is housed in the Health Sciences Building. There, the team examines how biometric markers such as blood pressure can be communicated in real-time, allowing the patient to have a deeper understanding of their body’s health in the moment, and adjust accordingly.

Milestone anniversary:The College of Nursing celebrated 60 years of educating Pirate Nurses in fall 2020. The ECU nursing community marked the occasion with a virtual Homecoming and 60th anniversary celebration that ended with a Coast-To-Coast Toast from Dean Sylvia Brown on Friday, Oct. 16. The event capped off weeks of virtual reunions where alumni from the college reconnected with each other via Microsoft Teams and shared their favorite memories of their time at the college.

Center of Excellence: As the College of Nursing celebrated 60 years of educating nurses to serve North Carolina and beyond, the National League for Nursing designated ECU a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education for a fourth time. Ours was one of 17 programs selected last year. The College of Nursing was one of 11 schools recognized in the areas of Enhanced Student Learning and Professional Development.

Faculty feature: Dr. Pamela Reis, associate professor and interim PhD program director, was featured by ECU News for her expertise and experience in nurse-midwifery. “ECU has the only nurse-midwifery program in the Carolinas,” Reis said. “When a position became available to teach in the program, I leaped at the opportunity. I was a preceptor for midwifery students for many years prior to becoming faculty at ECU, and I wanted a greater role in shaping the future of the midwifery workforce in North Carolina.”