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Grow Our Own: Developing nursing leaders, educators

The best way to build a strong, positive workplace culture is through verbiage. School of Nursing Divisional Dean Shelle Poole capitalized on that and created three main mantras that drive school culture – Grow Our Own, Make Things Easier, and Better Together.

But “Grow Our Own” is more than just a phrase; it’s a multifaceted idea. It’s partly encouragement of School of Nursing employees to lead where they are, whether or not they’re in official leadership roles. The other part is a tangible program which exists to advance nursing faculty into the next level of education.

In search of: Much-needed nursing faculty

There is currently a nationwide shortage of nursing faculty due in part to the fact that the average practicing clinician has a higher salary than a nurse educator. As the climbing cost of living continues to influence people’s career decisions, “Grow Our Own” is Boise State’s answer to increase the number of highly qualified nursing educators.

Headshot of April Howell smiling.
Assistant professor and Boise State alumna April Howell began teaching at Boise State in 2021.

The program provides financial support for adjunct and full-time faculty to pursue their master’s or doctorate through Boise State or another regionally- and nationally-accredited university.

For assistant professor April Howell, furthering her education looks a little different. When she began teaching at Boise State in the fall of 2021, she already had her Master of Science in Nursing degree and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Grand Canyon University.

An alumna of Boise State’s RN-BS program, Howell jokes that she’s attended every college and university in the state of Idaho. While not far from the truth, she still found room for educational development.

Always room to grow

Howell petitioned to apply the “Grow Our Own” program to develop her skills as a teacher. She’s now in a year-long program through Northern Colorado University to become a certified nurse educator.

“Once I got my doctorate, I thought ‘I really want to go into teaching.’” But her background is heavily rooted in the clinical setting, and Howell felt she needed to bolster her training as an educator.

“I felt like I needed educational literacy,” she said. “I need to know what these definitions are: What is pedagogy? What is a teaching strategy? Where do you find those?”

Howell loves her program so far; she’s already updated her classroom based on newly-learned insights, such as evidence-based teaching methods and targeting different learning styles.

Best of all, she’s thrilled to be furthering her education while simultaneously teaching in the School of Nursing.

“I’m really thankful I chose Boise State,” Howell said.

“I really like the culture,” she said. From the divisional dean and associate divisional dean to her program director and peer faculty, Howell said “you can ask anybody anything, anytime,” and they’ll help connect you with the right resource.

Advancing a culture of growth

By cultivating the skills of people already connected with the school, leadership seeks to empower nursing faculty, staff and alumni. This includes helping new employees assimilate and feel supported as they join the team, as well as developing opportunities for those currently working at Boise State, like Howell.

“More than anything,” said Shelle Poole, the School of Nursing divisional dean, “The school is poised to not get stuck in its ways, but constantly innovate and advance nursing education for the betterment of healthcare across Idaho and the nation.”