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IU School of Nursing Alumnus Dean Patrick Robinson Leads Conversation on Nursing Education
Curriculum in nursing schools is forever changing and expanding as new technology and techniques are created and integrated into health care practices. Indiana University School of Nursing alumnus and current dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella University Patrick Robinson, PhD, RN, FAAN, believes it’s important for nursing to remain accessible and as an educator and a leader he can help ensure that happens.
“We have to figure out ways for all students to be able to access resources while making sure nursing education remains innovative,” he said.
Robinson could not deny his passion for nursing from a young age. At 17 years, he worked as a nursing assistant at a local hospital and felt the caring and nurturing atmosphere was really special.
“While I was interested in arts and theater in high school, I decided in my freshman year that I wanted to pursue nursing,” Robinson said. “It’s in my blood – I was always around hospitals, my dad was a physician and my mom was a nurse.”
Many of his family members went to IU, so he was inspired to attend as well. He graduated from IUSON with his bachelor’s degree in 1990 and his master’s degree in 1993. During his time, he served as the president of the Student Nursing Association his junior year and formed bonds with the “wonderful, incredible faculty.” Retired assistant dean for clinical research Jan Beckstrand became an undergrad research mentor and invited Robinson to become a research assistant for her project on pediatric feeding tube measurements.
“It was an exciting time and my professors encouraged me that I was capable of so many things,” he said. “Doris Frobe embraced me, Victoria Champion told me to get my doctorate and Mary Fisher was an inspiring mentor.”
After graduating, Robinson served on the IUSON Alumni Association Board and continues to stay connected with faculty members that helped him along the way.
By 1990, more than 300,000 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in the United States and it was thought that 8-10 million people were living with the disease worldwide, according to Avert, an international HIV and AIDS organization.
“Many of my friends started to get sick and no one was quite sure why,” Robinson said. “It was a really frightening time; I had to keep asking myself, ‘what do I do?’”
As a nurse, Robinson felt he had the ability to respond and use his skills to help improve communication lines between health care professionals and patients about what was going on.
“It was never my intention to leave bedside care, but we had to go where people hadn’t gone before,” he said. “There were no experts yet on the disease, so we were just figuring it out together.”
Assistance came in August of 1990 when the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act was passed by Congress. Named in honor of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who contracted AIDS through a tainted hemophilia treatment, the act funded the improvement of care available to low-income and uninsured people affected by HIV/AIDS. To this day, it is the largest federally funded program in the country for people living with the virus.
Marion County received some of this funding and Robinson started an outreach program at Wishard Memorial Hospital, known today as Eskenazi Hospital. As an HIV/AIDS care manager, clinical nurse specialist and director of the HIV/AIDS specialty clinic, he coordinated treatment, provided testing and primary care for patients and linked them to community services.
He is proud to have helped form the Indiana chapter of Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. He served as the national president of the organization and as an officer of the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board. Among other awards from various institutions, IUSON has recognized Robinson with several accolades including the Frank Lamendola Memorial Award for exemplary leadership in HIV/AIDS care and named him one of the top 100 Alumni Legacy Leaders as part the centennial anniversary in 2014. Robinson appreciates the achievements, but understands how important the work was that his team was doing at the time.
“We were teaching people how to efficiently manage the virus - it was an extraordinary opportunity,” he said. “After going through that experience, I know there will never be any more bad days at work.”
That experience led Robinson down the clinical nursing path and he went on to obtain his PhD in nursing science from Loyola University Chicago and complete a post-doctoral fellowship in biobehavioral nursing research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He says he was exposed to nursing scientists and was inspired to emulate them.
“Smart people were doing creative things and the environment that surrounded me was exhilarating,” he said. “My doctoral work and post-doctoral fellowship prepared me for my faculty role. As a faculty member, I found I was interested in innovation and wanted a role in leading change. That desire led me into academic leadership.”
He held several roles in academia at Orbis Education, Chamberlain College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing and the Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago before becoming the dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella.
Robinson says that he enjoys being in leadership roles because he is inspired to collaborate and push agendas, to bring power and ingenuity to the table and try to solve the question of “How do we reform higher education?”
Under his direction as the dean, the school has been able to create programs that respond to non-traditional students, receive accreditation and become one of the national leaders in competency-based direct assessment.
“I always wanted to be like Angela [McBride, IUSON dean from 1991-2003],” Robinson said. “I recognize that this is a privileged spot to be in; I am so pleased to have the opportunity to bring change and innovation to the field of nursing education.”