Welcome from Dean Nickitas

September1, 2021

Dean’s Welcome Back Message
Donna M. Nickitas

From Advocacy to Activism: Lessons of Social Justice, Humility, and Community-Service Partnerships

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” ---Abraham LincolnRutgers School of Nursing–Camden Dean Donna Nickitas

As we return to campus and begin our new academic year, please be ready to become agile, flexible, and focused on creating your future--- a future that moves from advocacy to activism, charting new pathways forward from the COVID-19 pandemic towards building a path toward health equity for all.

For many it will be the first-time entering the nursing building but for others, it will be a time to acknowledge the critical lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has impacted you, your family, and community. It is equally important to acknowledge how the pandemic has impacted our school as well, its faculty, students, and staff.

The Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden (RUSNC) has changed. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we moved from being nurse advocates using our knowledge, voices, and advocacy, toward pivoting into becoming nurse activist who planned and provided direct patient services using our acquired nursing science, evidence-based practice and standards into action and engagement within the university, Camden County and City to create, partner-in and lead the complex work of integrating patient-centered information, education, and vaccination. This activism of addressing social and health sectors with Cooper University Hospital, the New Jersey State Department of Health, the Camden County Department of Health and multiple community-based service agencies demonstrated how RUSNC was able to design and engage in the difficult work of aligning public health, health care, social service and public policy to address health disparities and health equity. At this point in time, we have assisted in providing over 110,000 vaccinations with a total of 19 faculty and 453 students in 199 days, supported at Blackwood Camden Community College, Kroc Center in East Camden, and 8 mobile vaccination events. All in all, faculty contributed a total of 3,234 hours and students a total of 10,236 hours.

In achieving our vision of inclusivity, diversity, and equity by confronting and mitigating systemic racism we sought to address how racism negatively impacts our colleagues, students, families, and communities. We moved beyond the traditional sectors of acute care hospitals, not because we wanted to, but because we had to due to COVID.  We shifted to more nontraditional settings in communities where individuals live, work, play, and worship.  Our educational and clinical patient outcomes focused on community-based population health experiences while addressing the prevention of illness and disease as well as promoting attention to complex chronic conditions, interventions and treatments of a person’s living and work and environments.

We fully acknowledge how equity and disparities are aligned with the profession of nursing education, research, and practice. The pandemic reminded us that evidence-based nursing care promotes health while contributing to the broader aims of health, well-being, and equity.  We have charted a new future and ushered in remarkable improvements in community and public health nursing that will lead to models of care and interventions and demonstrate significant outcomes, both clinically and financially. We will leverage our lessons learned during the pandemic of social justice, humility, and successful community-service partnerships to underscore the leadership, ingenuity, and determination of our nurse faculty, students, and staff.  They represent the powerful connections we have to our local and state healthcare systems and community-based service partners. 

As we prepare to envision and create our future strategic plan this academic year, the RUSNC will weave the social determinants of health and social care around the needs of vulnerable, underserved communities, providing a holistic approach that encompass upstream, midstream, and downstream determinants. Creating care models that chart a path toward health equity which include opportunities to develop new payment metrics that measure the economic outcomes of effective and efficient nursing services.

So, in closing as we return to school remember that our new normal, comes with new expectations. If you are sick or displaying symptoms of illness, please stay home. When you are on campus, please remember to wash your hands and to wear a mask and keep physical distance when indoors. These common-sense steps will be increasingly important as we re-populate Rutgers-Camden and prepare to coexist with the coronavirus safely and smartly in the weeks and months to come.

I wish you peace, joy, and hope as you create your future in nursing education  and become a nurse activist, right here at RUSNC.

Sincerely,

Donna M. Nickitas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNE, FNAP, FAAN
Dean and Professor