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Nurse Scholars Academy Graduates First Students

The Kaiser Permanente educational program is helping employees realize their professional dreams as they earn bachelor’s and advanced degrees in nursing. Pictured, Nancy Taquino, DNP, RN, and Vincent Samuel, MSN, RN.

Growing up in India, Vincent Samuel volunteered with Mother Teresa’s nuns.

He chose a career as an accountant before emigrating to the U.S. in 2006 and earning his bachelor of science in nursing, or BSN, in 2010.

Employed in Kaiser Permanente San Francisco’s Med-Surg-Telemetry unit since then, Samuel has risen to assistant nurse manager. He was about to start his master’s degree program at Holy Names University when he opted to apply to the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Nurse Scholars Academy for its Master of Science-Clinical Nurse Leader program.

“The beauty of it for me is I can take what I learned and bring it to my unit,” Samuel said. “I still want to be at the bedside — that’s why I became a nurse — but now I can lead people in small tests of change that we have the potential to bring beyond our hospital.”

On July 26, Samuel joined 30 employees in downtown Oakland as the program’s first graduating class receiving degrees.

Growing Success

The Nurse Scholars Academy launched in December 2015 to increase the number of Kaiser Permanente nurses with bachelor’s and advanced degrees in nursing. Students complete an application to join the program, and once accepted are given time during workdays for classes.

The RN to BSN program is in partnership with Samuel Merritt University. Both the master’s and doctoral programs are offered through the University of San Francisco. Additionally, the academy offers nurse executive programs.

“The vision for the Nurse Scholars Academy is to support nurses in advancing their education and empowering them to innovate and transform the future of Kaiser Permanente caring-healing environments,” said Jim D’Alfonso, DPN, RN, the program’s executive director.

“In less than 2 years the program has had phenomenal results,” said Theresa M. Brodrick, PhD, RN, regional chief nurse executive. “This winter 187 Kaiser Permanente nurses will receive their BSN and 60 percent of the participants in the leadership development program have already been promoted.”

Brodrick added that the Association of California Nurse Leaders has tapped the Nurse Scholars Academy to guide it in the development of a program it will offer statewide. And Kaiser Permanente has gone from one doctorally prepared nurse in Patient Care Services to 10, once they complete their degrees.

Janet Liang, regional president and the program’s executive sponsor, described her active role in creating the academy as “a labor of love.” She told the graduates, “My hope is that you will touch many lives through your leadership, including our patients and our staff. We are so proud of you and this accomplishment for the future of nursing at Kaiser Permanente.”

Pursuing ‘The Crown Jewel’

Genevieve Wright, MSN, RN; Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, RN; and Priscilla Javed, DNP, RN, at the July Nurse Scholars Academy graduation ceremony in downtown Oakland.

Genevieve Wright, MSN, RN, has just celebrated her 28-year anniversary as a nurse. But the clinical services director in Maternal & Child Health at Kaiser Permanente San Leandro is hardly slowing down.

In fact, she’s earning a Doctorate of Nursing Practice at the University of San Francisco.

“I had never considered getting another degree,” said Wright, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees over the years while working full time. “But participating in the Nurse Scholars Academy turned on my educational juices.”

Wright graduated from the program’s Nurse Executive Advanced Leadership Development Program and will receive her doctorate in December 2018. Her ultimate career goal is something she termed “the crown jewel of a nursing career”: chief nurse executive.

“It’s exciting to me that we are moving our nursing practice at Kaiser Permanente to a level of professionalism and opportunity that is the very best one could possibly offer,” added Wright, who said that 2 assistant managers in her department are enrolled in the BSN program.

“I’ve worked in 7 facilities and I don’t know how many jobs, and I’m here to tell you that there is an immense amount of opportunity at Kaiser Permanente,” she said. “A nurse can achieve anything in her career at this organization that she puts her mind to.”

Learn more about The Nurse Scholars Academy.