Hill Shares, Counsels Class of 2013 on Voyages of Discovery

Hill Shares, Counsels Class of 2013 on Voyages of Discovery

Excerpt from Dr. Martha N. Hill’s speech at the 2013 School of Nursing graduation ceremony, her last as dean.

Dean Hill Caricature

When I came to Hopkins to go to nursing school it was… a while ago. It was still a hospital three-year diploma training school. We lived in Hampton House, where each of us had our own private room, with a sink in the room. I’d never had a private room with a sink in it before! We were taught by nursing faculty and physicians, and received a stunning education. We learned by working in the hospital. (Today we would call that free labor.) In return, we received excellent clinical experience and a great deal of knowledge.

But the hallmark of how we learned was to be imbued in an environment of research and discovery, what today we would call evidence-based learning. It was about asking the question “Why?”

“Why is this patient being readmitted?”

“Why hasn’t this patient been taking their medications as prescribed?”

“Why is this patient having medications prescribed that the prescribers don’t believe are going to help, and the side effects of which are worse than the disease itself? Or where the cost is so great that the patient can’t afford to buy it?”

“Why is it that we nurses have the opportunity–if we are in the right place and we are making the right assessments, the right plans, delivering the right care and evaluating it–that we cannot gather the data, write the papers, and influence the procedures and policies?”

“Why is it that, here at Hopkins, we don’t yet have a university nursing school in which the faculty can be standing with rank, and where the students can receive degrees?”

After working long days in the hospital, and having a few hours off, we would lie on our beds and call up and down the hall. Our concerns dwelt on the immediate. One of my remarks, much remembered by classmates, was, “When I marry a millionaire, I’m going to give an EKG machine to each floor in Osler.” It never occurred to me that some day, every bed in the Osler Building, every bed in most of the hospital would have an EKG machine in the wall at the head of the bed. It also didn’t occur to me then that what I heard alumni and faculty calling out for–a university school of nursing–would lead us to where we are today: a highly ranked division of an international, research-intensive university known for its scholarship and its patient care.

And it has been an enormous privilege to be able to lead this school to fulfilling its potential, with the standards of excellence embedded in my DNA as a graduate of the hospital training school.

So I say to you graduates: I hope we’ve embedded in your DNA our Johns Hopkins University standards of excellence and our values. You are about to go on a voyage of discovery. Carry with you–wherever in the world you may go–the Hopkins messages of Knowledge for the World and Rising to the Challenge and our commitment to caring for patients and improving the evidence on which we base that care. You are Hopkins Nurses.


Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN
Professor of Nursing, Medicine and Public Health
The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

Editor’s Note: Martha Hill will continue to serve the School as dean Until September 1. Her caricature is by Tom Chalkley, whose work has appeared The New Yorker and who teaches an undergraduate course in cartooning at Johns Hopkins University.

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