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Nursing dean emphasizes the impact of collaboration in healthcare

Carole Kenner

Widely considered the “mother of neonatology nursing,” Carole Kenner literally wrote the book on nursing care for newborns, a text used worldwide as the basic foundation for neonatal education. At the beginning of this month, the National Association of Neonatal Nurses selected her as the recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing her vision and lifelong passion to strengthen the field.

Now a week into her post as the Carol Kuser Loser Dean of the School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science, Kenner is poised to lead the school and its curriculum through the challenges of national health care reform.

“There is an emphasis at the national level on wellness and health promotion,” she notes. “With nursing being at the forefront of healthcare reform changes, I think this is a perfect environment for a school such as ours.”

In addition to addressing healthcare issues locally and nationally, she’ll continue her work in advancing global policy, education and training that aims to reduce infant mortality rates. As the executive director of the Council of International Neonatal Nurses, she worked with global institutions to get newborn health on the agenda at the World Health Assembly—the decision-making body of the World Health Organization—meeting in early May.

But she has not accomplished any of this in a vacuum. In fact, she stresses the necessity of teamwork.

According to Kenner, reports from the Institute of Medicine over the past 15 years have consistently shown that mortality and morbidity rates due to medical errors are most commonly caused by breakdowns in communication among the healthcare team.

That’s one reason why she is so eager to get to work enhancing collaboration between the nursing, health and exercise science disciplines. She believes that starting students out in common courses where they work together in simulated environments and share a common dialogue will show them how important a team approach to care is, especially in terms of patient outcomes.

“I think here, within TCNJ, there are a lot of opportunities not just within the school, but interdisciplinary opportunities to get everyone working together,” she says.

—Emily W. Dodd