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Message from the Dean

Q&A

Dr. Patricia Davidson

Free moments are few and far between for Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Dean Patricia Davidson.  But she recently stole a little time to talk about her first year as dean, about being a “global citizen,” and walking the talk on patient-centered care, as well as where she finds flashes of inspiration and even relaxation.

Q: We speak often at Johns Hopkins about “Interprofessional Education” and a “One University” approach but it’s easier said than done. Yet you’ve seen it happen, right? What does it look like?

A: Simply by virtue of our East Baltimore geography – the “Four Corners” of Nursing, Medicine, Public Health and the Hospital -- nurses, doctors, public health researchers, pharmacists, and students in each of those fields can’t walk 50 feet without meeting and interacting. But that’s only part of it, of course. Interprofessional education and practice is like any other tried-and-true relationship that’s built on trust. It’s where people clearly understand roles and responsibilities, where there is respect for knowledge skills and competencies. Particularly with interprofessional education, you really have to model the behaviors. Trust is earned, but it is also learned.

With a sick patient, for instance, you see a doctor doing a physical examination, and you see a nurse doing a physical examination, and they compare notes and communicate with the entire care team, with patients, with families, and now you’ve got a united front for the patient. When we talk of “patient-centered care,” this is what we want our students to witness.

Q: You’ve been a new dean, in a new country, in a rankings push, and introduced a new degree program (Master’s Entry into Nursing). How are you holding up?

A: For as many challenges as there have been, there have been even greater opportunities.   The good news for the future is that we’ve met them, and we’ll continue to do so. Transitioning a new dean is always hard. I have given my heart and soul -- and maybe a bit more -- to this job and this school. You have to do that.

I love and care deeply about nursing, and I love this school already – the students, the faculty, the staff, our alumni and donors, and the community of Baltimore.

There have been days though when I’ve been overwhelmed. But that’s when you’ve got to keep your eye on the prize: “Why did I come here?” Well, I came here to build on an opportunity. It’s a golden moment for nursing, with changes brought by the Affordable Care Act offering nursing a chance for an even greater role in healthcare, both at the bedside and in leadership. We cannot afford to miss this one.

The students have been my guiding light, and have truly laid out my stepping stones. They have shown me the way. They inspire me about the future. My successes are reflected in their successes, in their growth as nurses, researchers, thinkers, and leaders, as global citizens. It is frankly much more exciting to me at this chapter in my career to help others toward their achievements and goals.

Q: You mention the idea of being a “global citizen.” What, to you, does that mean?

A: It means that as a school, as caregivers, as teachers, as students, as researchers and team members, we should never assume that we hold the correct answer. We should never stereotype. We should never label. What we must be is culturally sensitive, whether that be the culture of East Baltimore or China or the Congo. Always, we should assess and respond to an individual’s unique perspective and needs, and be aware of our own good fortune. I have been very lucky in my life, blessed with good health, good family, and a good education. And that compels me to give back.

Q: You get to the front door of the Hopkins School of Nursing very early each day. Let’s say yesterday was a really bad day. What is it on the other side of that door today that makes you want to open it anyway?

A: It’s Officer Eugene Mobley [at the security desk just inside the Pinkard Building’s main entrance]. His professionalism and positive manner are a tremendous contribution to our community, such a fine example of who we are as people and what the school stands for. Honestly, when I see his smile and hear his genuine laugh, it’s so centering. It is an affirmation that “I am in the right place.” Then I turn the corner and see the students who’ve arrived early as well, and here we go!

Q: In your rare “off-duty” time, have you found a favorite place to relax? What does it feel like when you’re there?

A: Being by the Baltimore harbor reminds me of home in Australia. In Fells Point, there is that rich sense of a past as well as a future. And it’s such a mosaic of Baltimore life, just all types of people, which I love. Sometimes I’ll be out walking, and students will call out a hello as they head toward the bar or whatever, and that means so much. It’s so neat being part of the lives of these bright people, helping them realize what they can mean to the world. That is what brings me the most peace.


Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN
Dean, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

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