Notes from the Dean's Desk
Pandemics Have Shown the Impact of Nurse Leadership on Healthcare, Providing Lessons & Inspiration for the Future
The greatest test of personal and professional dedication comes when our skills and spirits are challenged by seemingly overwhelming conditions. For nurses, severe challenges of that sort have arisen during two frightening pandemics over the past 40 years — first with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, and then with the onslaught of COVID-19 since early 2020.
At Jefferson College of Nursing, we are incorporating the lessons of those pandemics into our curriculum, demonstrating how nurses can rise to the occasion in a crisis — fully realizing their own personal potential and contributing to the entire profession’s response in ways they might not have imagined.
A key teaching tool is 5B, a 2019 American documentary film commissioned by Johnson & Johnson that has become part of a leadership course in our Doctor of Nursing Practice program. The film tells the inspirational story of nurses and caregivers who built Ward 5B in 1983 at San Francisco General Hospital to address the special needs of HIV/AIDS patients, and how they created care practices based in humanity and holistic well-being amidst great uncertainty.
Told via first-person accounts from those who lived and served in that period, 5B is an uplifting yet candid and bittersweet monument to a pivotal moment in American history and a celebration of quiet heroes. The film won the Entertainment Lions Grand Prix Award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
After viewing 5B, Jefferson DNP students are asked to compare and contrast nursing leadership during the onset of HIV/AIDS crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Mary Lou Manning, who serves as the Director of Jefferson’s Center for Infection Control and Antibiotic Stewardship, describes this learning experience in a “Teaching Tip” published in the August 2020 issue of Nurse Educator titled “Comparing the AIDS and COVID-19 Pandemics Using the 5B Documentary.”
As this academic year came to end, we made 5B the centerpiece of a May 12 panel discussion featuring the film's Philadelphia-native producer — and our May 13 commencement speaker — Brendan Gaul; Alison Moëd Paolercio, RN, MS, Head Nurse of the AIDS Ward at San Francisco General Hospital; and Mary Beth Edger, DNP, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, Senior Vice President Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc. Lynda Benton, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives, Global Community Impact, at Johnson & Johnson moderated the panel discussion and the Q&A that followed. The panel addressed the isolation that both AIDS and COVID-19 patients felt, and how compassionate and skilled nursing filled the gap, changed practice, and saved many lives.
Carole Treston, Executive Director of The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, gave remarks on the importance of nurses’ work in AIDS Care to kick off the panel discussion. Following the panel discussion, Dean Marino presented the 2022 JCN Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Edger and the rarely given JCN HERO Award was presented to a stunned Alison Moëd Paolercio. JCN created the HERO Award to honor individuals, teams, or organizations that make extraordinary contributions to improve lives and positively impact their communities. After the award presentations, Dean Marino announced that Brendan Gaul would receive an Honorary Doctor of Science degree at the following days’ commencement exercises.
The May 12 proceedings were a great way to mark National Nurses Week and inspire our latest graduating class as its members prepare for the next great health care challenges. In addition to guests, faculty, and students, Maggie, JCN’s beloved “Chief Compassion Officer,” was there to help wipe away the tears from watching this deeply moving film.