With the help of the Wharton School, nursing programs across the country are working to create the next generation of leaders in the healthcare industry.

On May 10, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing unveiled a new leadership development program designed specifically for nursing school deans.

The AACN-Wharton Executive Leadership Program, a four-day conference, is slated to begin on Aug. 14 on Penn’s campus.

“The objective of this four-day program is to give nursing school deans and healthcare directors exposure to business concepts that will enhance their leadership roles within their organizations,” Wharton Vice Dean of Executive Education Jason Wingard wrote in an email. “Our goal is for participants to leave the program with a new set of negotiation and leadership skills.”

“Though many executive leadership programs are available at top schools like Wharton, none focus exclusively on the needs of nursing deans,” AACN President Jane Kirschling said. “With a new layer of leadership expertise, nursing’s academic leaders will be well-positioned to make a real change and embrace innovation that can impact how nurses are educated and how they practice.”

The program is offered exclusively for deans and directors of AACN member institutions who hold the role of chief nursing academic officer. Sponsored in part by the New York-based Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, a philanthropy supporting nursing, the program curriculum is designed to provide nursing school leaders with the tools necessary to improve management and leadership amongst nursing schools.

“Wharton has the latest data on best models of leadership to bring deans together,” School of Nursing Dean Afaf Meleis said. This will “provide evidenced-based strategies to deal with new issues facing deans in managing schools of nursing … [which will] transform educational systems,” she said.

According to Darlene Curley, executive director of the Jonas Center, the center has given $10 million to support nursing scholarship, leadership and innovation as of this summer. The center, which has partnered with AACN and Penn in the past, provided a $100,000 grant for program development.

“Preparing nursing deans with top-level leadership skills is fundamental to advancing the profession and infusing nursing’s voice into the national conversation about healthcare reform and innovation,” Kirschling said.

According to Meleis, leaders in academic institutions are up against challenges that involve engaging and managing internal stakeholders, such as students and faculty, as well as external stakeholders, which include health organizations and the government — each with their own diverse and conflicting needs. She added that nursing school leaders must do this while simultaneously honoring the AACN mission objectives of education, practice and research.

“Nursing school leaders will learn to manage limited resources and how to enhance them by finding ways to generate more revenue and funds, which is new for academia to think that way,” Meleis said.

Curley hopes that the program will provide the skills and networking ability for the deans to take their newly acquired knowledge back to their home universities and in turn, have a greater impact on improving health care in the United States. “Nurses are the backbone of health care,” she said.

Participants will depart Philadelphia with honed negotiation and leadership skills in order to more effectively lead their individual schools, Kirschling said.

Limited to only 40 participants with an application pool of over 700 nursing deans, the program is using a competitive application process to make final selections. Kirschling added that though registration is closed, AACN and Wharton have not completed the selection process and have not confirmed attendees at this point.

“The long-term implication of this program is that these deans will now be prepared for the known as well as the unknown future that lies ahead,” Meleis said.

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