James Madison University

Julie Sanford - The Future of JMU Nursing

By: Christine Borkowski
Posted: December 13, 2011

If there is one thing that Dr. Julie Sanford likes about JMU so far, it is the people. “I really enjoy the level of engagement that the faculty, staff and students have with the community and the commitment to excellence.”

Dr. Sanford, a Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS) and a Registered Nurse (R.N), is the newly-appointed department head of JMU Nursing. She has been dedicated wholeheartedly to the practice of nursing for over 25 years.

Dr. Sanford’s educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Alabama, a Master’s degree in nursing from the University of South Alabama and a DNS from Louisiana State University.  She practiced as a clinical nurse in critical care and emergency department settings.  Now her focus is on nursing education and serving the needs of the community.

“I have been very impressed with the level of commitment of our faculty and staff. The faculty of our nursing department are dedicated to nursing and the education of our future nurses,” Dr. Sanford praised.

Dr. Sanford is entering a successful program, with 97% of nursing graduates passing their National Council Licensure Exam making JMU highly ranked in terms of its NCLEX passrate  Passing this exam is required to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN).

“This high pass rate reinforces the strength of the undergraduate nursing curriculum and the readiness of our students to transition into new graduate RN positions,” explained the Undergraduate Program Director Dr. Cynthia Rubenstein.

Dr. Sanford states that the values of JMU students and faculty indeed mesh with hers.  In the JMU nursing program, popular phrases include “community service” and “service learning.” Dr. Sanford added, “JMU puts action behind the service learning term. Of course with nursing, that is part of who we are as nurses-- community service and service to others.”

The Effects of an Increase of Demand for Nurses

Employment of registered nurses is expected to increase by 22% between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This statistic puts nursing among one of the occupations with the largest growing numbers in the country. With projections like these, nursing programs across the country will need to produce more nurses.

“Because of clinical sites and numbers of faculty, we can only admit a certain number of students, and that is a challenge. That’s a trend across the United States and not just at JMU,” Dr. Sanford explained “[The faculty] make a lot of personal sacrifices to meet the demand for educating nursing students. You don’t always see that in other institutions; I believe it is somewhat unique,” Dr. Sanford explained.

So what is in store for JMU nursing?

Dr. Sanford explained there are a few new projects going on in nursing. The program is undergoing a curricular revision. The aim is to make the BSN nursing program more current and efficient while maintaining the exceptional quality and reputation JMU nursing has earned. “[The curriculum] still has the solid focus on clinical and a wide variety of clinical experiences,” Dr. Sanford explained.

Another development in the nursing department is to make the process for registered nurses (RN) to earn their BSN more streamlined. “This program is for students who are already registered nurses with an Associate degree and want to obtain their BSN degree, ” Dr. Sanford explained, “we are hoping to make the RN to BSN program a more seamless progression.”

Dr. Sanford said the nursing departmentalso recently began offering nurse leadership concentrations, such as Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) and Nurse Administrator. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program has been approved and the department is hoping to begin the program at JMU in the near future.

Dr. Sanford’s Advice for Nursing Students

“For new students, I think it’s important to get involved in JMU and the academic community. Being part of the Student Nurses Association (SNA) is critical so they can connect with upperclassmen,” Dr. Sanford advised.

Dr. Sanford explains the SNA has many benefits such as great guest speakers, NCLEX review sessions, networking opportunities, state meetings and a state convention in Charlottesville in February 2012.

Dr. Sanford continued on the SNA, “I participated in the SNA when  I was a student, and I was a state officer in Alabama. The networking that you can do first of all with your peers and the individuals in nursing is just invaluable. You become part of a profession and you’re learning how to be a part of that profession.”

If new students are pre-nursing, Dr. Sanford said it is very critical that they study and learn the content for general education courses and prerequisites to nursing courses, putting their best foot forward.

“I would recommend that they work to stay involved, that they volunteer and maybe work a summer job in a hospital or agency to gain experience.  Students also should connect with faculty and Freshmen Advisers because the faculty cares a great deal about students.”