James Madison University

Expanding Nursing Program Attracts New Faculty

By: Vilina Phan
Posted: January 8, 2013

Finishing her prerequisites, a hopeful student opens her email and finds that her hard work has paid off; she has been accepted into the JMU nursing program. This fall, JMU offered 30 additional acceptances into the Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. This growth was possible due to the hiring of nine new nursing faculties, four of them being Laureen Donovan, Christina Lam, Julie Strunk, and Christine Fasching-Maphis.

“I felt that higher education would allow me to develop the next generation of nurses and pass on my passion for what I believe is truly an amazing profession,” said Donovan.

Donovan originally practiced in the military, with various jobs ranging from staff development coordinator to program director of hospital education. “It was during my last assignment, as a program director for the critical care nursing fellowship program…that I decided that I would retire from the military and try higher education,” said Donovan.

She teaches clinical courses for juniors and didactic for seniors. Her diverse background has allowed her to provide different examples for a range of class scenarios. Donovan’s focus is for her students to understand the practical knowledge of real working nurses.

“For me the transition has not been difficult, since I am used to working with all types of health care employees…what has surprised me the most has been how much I enjoy telling [a] story to make a point in my classroom and how much my students enjoy this,” said Donovan.

Donovan was drawn to JMU for multiple reasons, “the nursing program was expanding and the faculty appears to genuinely care about the nursing practice and creating the next generation of nurses.” JMU’s Center for Faculty Innovation (CFI) program also held great appeal, providing faculty with the opportunity to expand their academic horizons through discussions, workshops, and mentoring.

Being alumnae, Lam, Strunk, and Fasching-Maphis were naturally drawn to JMU.

“I experienced the JMU environment as a student and loved the relationships I made with faculty and peers as a student nurse,” said Lam.

Lam has been an educator for three of the six and half years since becoming a registered nurse. Prior to JMU, Lam split her time between field practice and community college faculty member.

“I see the role of the nurse educator as being one where I can make contributions to my profession through teaching future nurses…I would like to think that I have not completely left the field per se as I continue to teach students in the clinical setting,” said Lam

Lam teaches the nursing skill labs with first semester students as well as medical-surgical labs in Rockingham Memorial Hospital with second semester juniors. “I try to present the realities of the current healthcare system…and I like to use real case scenarios from practice to drive home key points…and sometimes challenge students to think about their own personal experience in different context,” said Lam.

Teaching is all encompassing because it requires more after hours work than a staff nurse. “I love the creativity and freedom that comes with the…role. I always enjoy meeting my students and getting to know them and what their interests are,” said Lam.

Strunk is a seasoned nurse, having spent 30 years in the field. She transitioned to teaching because “I wanted to make a difference in the field of nursing.”  

Strunk teaches pediatrics, undergraduate research, and graduate theory. “I try to make my class interesting and engaging. It is very important to me that the students learn the material…I have many, many stories that I can use to help relate my teaching topics to my experience,” said Strunk.

The learning curve that comes with teaching is an ongoing process. “I have learned that being a really good and effective teacher is very hard and it is a continuous development process,” said Strunk.

Fasching-Maphis is a JMU alumna who has never fully left her alma mater. “I love being able to walk from my front door to my office in less than 10 minutes-to live and work in my own community,” said Fasching-Maphis.

She has been a registered nurse for over twenty years, but only recently started teaching.

Fasching-Maphis was inspired by Pirke Avot’s quote, “The mere act of teaching implies that one wishes the world well,” leading her down the path of professorship. “The opportunity to ignite and fuel their [the students] critical thinking skills, and interests and passion for the contributions that they will make…what an awesome opportunity,” said Fasching-Maphis.

Fasching-Maphis teaches several courses, from Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing to Clinical Applications and Reason in Nursing Care, to Impact of Chronic Illness. Her teaching style varies with the content of the class.

“In the classroom, I use team based learning…in the clinical setting and the lab I ask questions and try to do side by side demos and explanations and provide a lot of feedback,” said Fasching-Maphis.

Her teaching method is Socratic in nature; she prefers probing her students with analytical questions hoping it will prepare them to be competent working members of the health care team.  

Fasching-Maphis has always viewed her nursing experience as that of a teacher. “I’ve engaged in a lot of teaching; patients, colleagues, and in the community, so I’m very familiar and comfortable with preparing for and teaching specific topics…in that sense it’s been a pretty smooth transition.”
The increase in nursing faculty members allows JMU to accept more students without sacrificing the quality of the program. According to Lam, one of JMU’s greatest strength is the student and faculty ratio: “students can access their professors, and are mentored and taught by faculty who have vested interest in clinical practice.”

JMU alumnae or not, these professors are settling into their new roles and surroundings, finding satisfaction in giving back to their profession.