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Carpenter focuses on student success, meeting demand for quality nurses

Jane Carpenter

(Photo by Doug Stremel)

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
Story by Jeremy Wangler

Jane Carpenter seemed to always have an encouraging voice urging her when it became time to make career moves. She’s thankful for those people and hopeful she and the Washburn University School of Nursing are doing the same for students studying to become nurses or elevate their credentials with certificates and graduate degrees.

Carpenter, bsn ’80, started teaching at Washburn in 1993, became interim dean in 2019 with the retirement of Monica Scheibmeir, and permanently stepped into the position in February 2020.

“I feel like it's really an honor to hold this position,” Carpenter said. “Our three previous deans have done amazing work and left an outstanding legacy.”

Growing up in Overland Park, Kansas, it was Carpenter’s father who encouraged her to work in health care, saying there would always be a demand in that field. On a tour of Washburn, Alice Adam Young, the first School of Nursing dean, presented a warm and welcoming campus to Carpenter. Thirteen years after graduating, faculty member Susan Hsia encouraged Carpenter to apply for an open teaching position at Washburn. She got the job and it turned into a full-time position a year later.

Knowing nursing is an ever-changing field, Carpenter earned a master’s degree in nursing. Sometime later, Cindy Hornberger, bsn ’78, dean at the time and now an adjunct professor, encouraged a reluctant Carpenter to get her doctorate.

“I said to her, ‘Cindy, I'm going to be too old for that. I'll be 53 when I'm done,’” Carpenter recalled. “So, Cindy said, ‘You can be 53 or you can be 53 with a PhD.’

“How do you argue with that logic?”

Hornberger said she encouraged Carpenter to get her doctorate because they were part of a young faculty and only a few had terminal degrees – the highest degrees offered in their field.

“That was a priority need, strategically for the school,” Hornberger said. “Jane was a prime candidate because she is a student advocate and an outstanding teacher. She was someone I felt would have a long and successful career in academe.”

Carpenter earned her doctorate in education to further round out her knowledge. The pursuit paid off, but the timing of her most recent promotion meant she is now leading the school through an unforeseeable crisis. The 
COVID-19 pandemic began within a month of Carpenter’s permanent placement as dean.

“COVID has created so many challenges,” Carpenter said. “I have to give our faculty credit. They did an amazing job of moving our classes online, creating virtual simulations and virtual labs. I couldn’t have done this without the help of our two associate deans, Dr. Debbie Isaacson and Dr. Bobbe Mansfield (bsn ’81).”

Washburn went online in March of 2020, and getting students in clinicals for the remainder of that semester became difficult, especially for the seniors who had to complete capstones. When partner institutions in Kansas City quit accepting students for clinical, Stormont Vail Health and the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus found places for those students.

The School of Nursing put community health initiatives on pause at the start of the pandemic, but the vaccine rollout gave nursing students a chance to help at four vaccination sites in Topeka.

“This was a way for our students to see community health in action and to be a part of the solution,” Carpenter said. “It was really important to me that we be a part of that.”

Carpenter and her colleagues haven’t only focused on navigating COVID-19 since she became dean. They are updating the mannequins in their simulation labs. They are preparing students for a change in the national exam that certifies nurses after graduation. They are using a state grant for faculty development and to help struggling students with study skills, organization and test preparation. And they are beginning to look at how Washburn colleagues teaching in other health care fields can collaborate and work on interprofessional experiences for all their students.

Jane Carpenter and a student

(Jane Carpenter helps nursing student Rose Aubert place an IV during a lab. Photo by Jeremy Wangler)

Carpenter and the School of Nursing are prepared to meet a growing demand for nurses and any changes in the education landscape. Hornberger is pleased her colleague is leading that charge.

“I think Jane has the temperament and the passion to be dean,” Hornberger said. “And because she is such a student advocate, I really look forward to the things she does to enhance the opportunities for students.”

Seeing her students succeed and become great nurses will always motivate Carpenter.

“Our alumni are providing high quality, compassionate care,” Carpenter said. “I'm super proud of all of them. I love going out to the hospitals in different areas and hearing what they're doing, and they're super excited to tell me what they're doing.”

the Ichabod magazine fall 2021

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions

 

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