James Madison University

Nursing Faculty Earns Scholarship

By: Daniel VIeth ('15, '17)
Posted: April 13, 2016

PHOTO: Karen Jagiello

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there is currently a shortage of nursing faculty in the US, limiting the nursing student capacity during a time when the country needs practitioners the most. One organization looking to reduce this strain is the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, who in 2008 started the Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholar Program to support nursing faculty through educational scholarships. Karen Jagiello, an assistant professor in the JMU School of Nursing, was recently selected to be a Jonas Scholar 2016-2018 for her role in promoting nursing leadership. This award will help Jagiello as she works toward her PhD in nursing from West Virginia University.

Jagiello started her career as a nurse in 1982, and worked in the field for 20 years before going back to school to earn her bachelor's degree. “I haven’t been out of school since,” joked Jagiello. Jagiello began teaching for JMU’s School of Nursing in 2006, and currently teaches women’s health in the Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program. In addition, Jagiello teaches in the registered nurse to BSN (RN-BSN) program, an online adult education degree for nurse practitioners looking to earn their bachelor's degrees. “I teach in that program because I have been on that journey myself, so I can understand the issues of balancing school, work, and family,” explained Jagiello. “I try to show the adult learners how they can apply what I’m teaching them to their profession.”

Along with the classes she teaches, Jagiello has established a mentoring program between the students in the BSN and the currently practicing RN-BSN learners. By pairing members from each program, individuals in both BSN and RN-BSN have the chance to learn from each other and promote their professional development. “I would have loved having a mentor when I was 20, who I could ask the basic things like what to wear to an interview, or how to prepare for night shifts,” said Jagiello. “I also want to push the RN-BSN students into a leadership role, because all nurses have to be leaders, both at the bedside and in the community.”

Jagiello initially wanted to earn her PhD in Nursing as a way to make a greater difference in the field. “At a certain point, to have my voice heard at the table, I have to have the credentials that say I know what I’m talking about, and know how to conduct research,” said Jagiello. “I want to be an active participant in improving what’s going on.” Currently, Jagiello has finished her coursework, and is preparing for her dissertation proposal. “I’m hoping to graduate in the next year or two, but things happen in their own time,” Jagiello continued. “I won’t force my research, it’ll happen as it happens.”

For her work as a leader in nursing working toward her PhD, Jagiello was nominated by West Virginia University School of Nursing for the Jonas Scholar award. “There’s a problem with nursing and nursing faculty in the US because individuals need a degree above what they teach, and there are not enough faculty who can teach the baccalaureate nurses,” explained Jagiello. “The Jonas Center is putting in money to support nurses in education who are going to be leaders, who will get out there in the community, state, and national levels.” When an individual is chosen as a Jonas Scholar, they are awarded with scholarship funds, and are asked to develop and present a project. “I don’t know what my project is going to be yet, but I hope to make it something in Virginia,” Jagiello continued. “Everything I do is to improve the health of Virginia, and the people living here.”

“I was really honored to be awarded as a Jonas Scholar,” said Jagiello. “Of course it will relieve some of the financial burden, but more importantly the award will introduce me to a whole new level of leadership in nursing that I can network with, learn from, and interact with.” Moving forward, Jagiello is excited to be developing a new Maymester study abroad program for nursing students in Malta, and would like to learn Spanish to better serve the Hispanic populations within the Shenandoah Valley. “I would also like to impact healthcare at the state level,” added Jagiello. “The nurse’s voice isn’t always heard, so I would like to get more active there, and I think that the Jonas scholarship will allow me to do that.”