Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing
Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
It isn’t surprising to hear Linda Norman’s life has been filled with teaching moments. After all, she is internationally known for innovations in nursing education. Yet, she would be the first to say her life has really been about the learning moments.
“I grew up knowing the value of asking questions,” she said of her childhood in Lynchburg, Va. From the time she was very young, she also knew she wanted to be a nurse.
Norman began her nursing career at the University of Virginia, earning a BSN and MSN in Adult Health Nursing. “I’ve always liked the idea of teaching,” Norman noted. “When I was in my BSN program, I thought it would be really nice to be able to do clinical teaching. Be careful what you wish for,” she smiled.
At UVA, nursing students were required to attend a summer session before beginning upper division courses. “The day after I graduated with my BSN, I started teaching in that fundamentals program,” Norman said, adding she also did clinical work at night. “I learned two things. One, I loved teaching. And two … oh, I needed more experience before I did it!”
She quickly gained both academic and clinical experience and went on to receive her doctorate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Norman has been involved in nursing education for 35 years now, serving in faculty and administrative positions.
A highly respected educator and researcher, she initially was recruited to Vanderbilt University School of Nursing to spearhead curricular innovations. She then expanded her work to develop interprofessional education programming for the healthcare professions, first with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and now through programs at Vanderbilt.
“Every situation is a chance for me to observe and to learn something new,” Norman said. “I’m more excited about the impact that nursing and nursing education can make to high quality healthcare than ever, something I learned from my mentor Colleen Conway-Welch.”
Named the eighth dean of VUSN in 2013, Norman’s commitment to education, research and practice continues to grow. Many know VUSN is one of the top-ranked nursing schools in the nation and are aware of its 106-year history, yet don’t realize it is also the largest professional school at Vanderbilt, and one of the largest graduate nursing schools in the country with nearly 900 students.
Norman said she wants to make sure master’s and doctorally prepared nurses are learning in the most impactful ways, dedicated to patient- and family-centered care and prepared to offer solutions to improve healthcare delivery.
One example is work being done with Vanderbilt School of Medicine’s Bonnie Miller, MD, on interprofessional education. Norman and Miller have led the charge for students being engaged in collaborative practice to enhance coordination or care and patient outcomes.
“It’s a team approach to care that needs to involve multiple disciplines working together — nursing, medicine, pharmacy and social work,” Norman explained, adding transformations in the American health system are changing concepts about how, when and where care should be delivered.
“How do we get ahead of the game to engage the patient and healthcare providers to improve their health status?” is a question Norman said providers must address together. However, she continued, traditional healthcare education silos aren’t necessarily conducive to this type of collaborative effort, which is a key reason why she and Miller co-lead the Vanderbilt Program of Interprofessional Learning.
Despite busy days, Norman is quick to say she thinks one of the biggest professional myths is that women can’t effectively balance work and family. Norman is married to husband, Don, and is the mother of two adult children and grandmother to two. “Having an executive role has strengthened my family responsibilities, because I know the value of relationships and using my time wisely to invest in the people who matter most to me,” she stated.