|Author: Anne Bozievich|
|A Lifetime of Leadership|
|For Sheila A. Haas, PhD, RN, FAAN, nursing is all about teaching, researching and mentoring. A 40-year veteran of the profession, Haas feels just as much love, pride and excitement for her job as she did in high school when she volunteered as a hospital candy striper. Today, however, Haas' passion for nursing remains evident through her teaching and interaction with her students as she continues to give back to the field that has given her so much.
Haas first fell in love with nursing during her days as a candy striper. "It's not something you see as much today, but it was a volunteer program open to young people," explains Haas. Wearing her candy-striped uniform, Haas volunteered year-round at a local hospital after school. She always looked forward to coming to the hospital, explaining, "I loved working with patients and in the hospital environment. I also enjoyed the excitement, because every time I went was different." Haas volunteered in several different areas including transport and reception, but no matter where she was, one thing always remained the same: she enjoyed the patients. Haas' love for her patients motivated her to pursue a career in nursing after high school, and today, her concern and care for patients as well as for her fellow nurses motivates her to continue advocating for changes in the profession.
For the last 30 years, Haas has worked as an instructor of nursing at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Founded in 1935, the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing is the oldest academic nursing program in the state of Illinois. Its baccalaureate nursing program boasts more than 5,000 alumni worldwide. Today, the school offers a range of programs, including undergraduate nursing and health systems management programs, master's degree programs, doctoral and certificate programs to educate professional nurses and an internship program for professional dietitians. The Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing is also home to the Center for Ethics in Nursing, the Center for Spiritual Leadership in Healthcare and the Center for Nursing Research.
Haas is a professor of nursing with expertise in health systems management, and she teaches in the BSN, MSN and doctoral programs in nursing. Additionally, she also teaches in the MBA program as well. Some of the upcoming courses she will teach include Health Program Planning and Evaluation in the Health Systems Management Non-Nursing major and Outcomes Performance Management in the doctoral program.
In addition to her role as a professor, Haas is also the former dean of the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. As dean, Haas was active in recruitment efforts to attract more people to the nursing profession. She partnered with schools and service providers in the Chicago area to battle the nursing shortage head-on. Her efforts resulted in an increase in the number of clinical sites and faculty throughout the area. Also, thanks to Haas' efforts, enrollment in Loyola's nursing programs more than doubled.
During her time as dean, Haas also introduced a program where health systems provided clinical faculty to schools like Loyola. Today, this is a common practice in the Chicago area, but in the early 2000s, the idea was unheard of. Always looking for ways to improve healthcare for both patients and providers, Haas is pleased that the practice has caught on. "I like entrepreneurial activity," she explains, "and I enjoy being able to partner and work with people to better healthcare. If you are going to create a really good clinical program, you have to be able to partner with those who are running the clinical agencies so you are current. And, a school of nursing cannot educate nurses by itself. It requires collaboration."
Although Haas thrived on the challenges her role as dean offered, she also missed the daily interaction with students that she enjoyed throughout her tenure as a professor. "I missed being involved with students and doing research while in the dean role," she explains. So, recently, Haas has returned to a faculty role at Loyola. Now, her students are her first priority, and Haas explains that their accomplishments are some of her proudest moments. "I love working with my students and seeing them grow and develop," she says. "I love running into and talking with former students, and it's touching to see that they are still in nursing."
Believing that interaction and collaboration with colleagues are essential parts of the nursing profession, Haas tries to set a good example for her students by remaining active outside the classroom. In addition to the time she spends teaching, Haas is also very active in several professional organizations. Currently, she serves on the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Board of Directors and on the ANCC Institute for Credentialing Innovation Board. She is also active on the Nursing Spectrum regional editorial board, the Nursing Economics editorial board and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) Technology Task Force. Additionally, Haas is a past president of the National Federation of Specialty Nursing Organizations. There, she worked with the Board of the Nursing Organization Liaison Forum of ANA on designing an innovative organization to represent the common goals and needs of specialty nurses. Haas has also served on the research committees of AAACN and AONE.
Thanks to her involvement in these organizations, and because of her years of experience, over the past 40 years, Haas has witnessed many changes in nursing. She notes that nurses today use more technology and function in much more complex environments than they did in the past. She explains that today, nurses must also be prepared to care for aging patients who are living longer than ever before. "The role of nursing has expanded as patients are living longer with more chronic illness and the need for care coordination," Haas explains.
Impending shortages of nurses and insufficient numbers of nurse educators compound the challenge of caring for these elderly patients, and Haas believes the only way to deal with this challenge is to get creative. "The nursing shortage means an opportunity to get creative in the workplace," she says. She explains that healthcare facilities need to create supportive environments for nurses because a satisfactory workplace and the camaraderie of coworkers are two of the biggest reasons nurses stay at a job.
Haas is a vigorous supporter of the Magnet movement, which strives for excellent patient care and a high level of job satisfaction among nurses. Magnet hospitals also strive for low nurse turnover rates, open communication and appropriate grievance resolution to create the best possible working environment for nurses. As part of a current research project, Haas is working on consultation implementation of evidence-based practice in an organization that is on its Magnet journey. "It is an absolute delight to work with nurses who are using evidence to reshape nursing practice and provide state-of-the-art care to patients," she says. "As part of this project, we are also using the electronic patient record to amass data from documentation on evidence-based protocols so that we can demonstrate outcomes of our evidence-based protocols." Haas' additional research interests are also in the areas of clinical ladder recognition systems, patient acuity systems and productivity.
For her commitment to research projects like these, as well as in honor of her leadership and devotion to her profession, Haas was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2002. Most recently, she was awarded the prestigious 2008 Illinois Nurse Leader Award during a luncheon in October. Five of Haas' colleagues at Loyola nominated her for the award, which recognizes one outstanding nurse leader who is committed to working for quality healthcare in the state of Illinois. According to the University of Illinois at Chicago, which created the award, "the award honors the hard work, commitment and dedication necessary to serve the healthcare needs of the people of Illinois through supremely skilled leadership and the courage to break through barriers. The award symbolizes the celebration of individual achievement and represents excellence in nursing leadership in our state."
Haas accepted the 2008 award during a Power of Nursing Leadership Event luncheon attended by more than 600 nursing and healthcare professionals from all over the state of Illinois. The Power of Nursing Leadership Event creates a supportive environment that facilitates the exchange of ideas and celebrates the achievement of all kinds of nursing professionals. Haas explains that she was especially honored to be nominated by her colleagues who believe just as strongly about advancing the profession and providing access to the best possible care as she does.
Although winning an award for outstanding leadership in nursing may seem like the pinnacle of a person's professional career, Haas has no plans to hang up her nursing hat anytime soon. She is excited about her return to a teaching role, and she looks forward to continuing to work closely with students, staff and professional organizations through Loyola.
Despite the many changes she has witnessed over the years, Haas explains that some aspects of nursing will always remain the same, and these are the aspects that first drew her to the profession when she was a teenager. "The relationships nurses have with patients and with families are still the same because both groups still have the same needs," she explains. Another constant that has not wavered through the years is Haas' own commitment to her profession. Today, she feels the same excitement she first experienced as a candy striper, and that is why she remains enthusiastic about her work. "I love the excitement of nursing and the continual challenges," she says. "I love the opportunity to work with patients, and I love working with students and faculty."
Looking back on her career, Haas notes that she would not do anything differently, and she urges students to open their minds to the wide range of possibilities a career in nursing offers. "You can teach, you can consult, you can become a care provider—there are endless possibilities."
Sheila A. Haas, PhD, RN, FAAN, earned a diploma from St. Peters Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1965. She went on to earn a BSN from St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1968. Haas then completed her MSN from Loyola University of Chicago in 1974, and she earned her PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1986. Today, Haas is a professor and former dean of nursing at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.
Anne Bozievich is a freelance writer from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. She is on the editorial board of NEWS-Line for Nurses.