Dean Marianne Baernholdt
Baernholdt, a close collaborator with UVA Health chief nursing officer Kathy Baker, has a new title at UVA Health: Dean of Professional Nursing.

Since becoming dean in August 2022—Marianne Baernholdt has been a close collaborator with nursing leadership at UVA Health's University Medical Center—a welcomed approach.

By May 2023, Baernholdt and Kathy Baker, PhD, RN, NE-BC, chief nursing officer of UVA Health, each received new courtesy leadership appointments at the other’s institution: Baernholdt as dean of professional nursing at UVA Health University Medical Center, and Baker as associate dean for clinical affairs at the UVA School of Nursing.

“Kathy is part of my team, and I am part of hers,” says Baernholdt. “It solidifies our collaboration by showing that we each have a leadership role in each other's spheres.”

Now, Baernholdt shares more about her foundational partnership with Baker, the many opportunities for UVA Health nurses to get involved in the UVA School of Nursing, and the importance of what she calls “professional joy.”

Q: Why is it important for you to have a strong partnership with Kathy Baker?

Two reasons: When you educate nurses, you need clinical partners so students can practice, hands-on, with patients, what they’ve learned in the classroom and in the simulation lab. Our medical center helps us make sure our students can get all the supervised training and mentoring they need. It’s the only way you can run a nursing school. 

In addition, it’s equally important for us to offer to UVA Health nurses various professional development and educational opportunities to enrich and broaden their perspective, practices, and career trajectories. Taking part in these kinds of growth opportunities really is a retention tool—it helps nurses keep up-to-date, relevant, and engaged. 

As Kathy implements new roles and initiatives at the medical center — like the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)-specific jobs and research opportunities—we are in constant conversation about what it all means for nursing practice. We are each other's feedback loops."

Q: What are you currently working on? 

While the medical center is developing their own strategic plan for nursing, at the School of Nursing, we're developing our strategic plan, too. As one of the seven entities in the health system, and one of 12 schools at the University, we are aligning with all our partners: UVA’s Great and Good, UVA Health’s Health & Hope for All, and the medical center’s nursing strategic plan as well. The crossover is and will be increasingly visible. The goal is for easier, more natural collaboration across all levels. 

We are working actively on expanding professional development for nurses and making it easier for nurses to return to school. Earlier this spring, the school launched a Nurse Educator Academy (NEA) and a Clinical Instructor Bootcamp for nurse clinicians to earn further education if they have a penchant to teach. We had a lot of takers—so many nurses were interested!—and look forward to continuing both programs to tap what seems to be a sizable interest from nurses wanting to mentor and teach the next generation of nursing students. They are and will be a huge asset to our classroom and bedside instruction! 

We also collaborate on UVA Health University Medical Center’s Nurse Residency Program for Clinician 1s, which is a phenomenal program, and only one of about 50 accredited programs in the country. We’re working to develop a similar program for new advanced practice providers (APPs), because we know from the literature that they also are very vulnerable to stress and burnout.

Now that APPs are under one group in the medical center, we’re learning how we can best support them as they transition into their new roles so they’re prepared, fulfilled, and want to make UVA Health University Medical Center their “forever” professional home. 

Q: What opportunities are there at the School of Nursing for UVA Health nurses?

Oh, so many! We want working nurses to offer guest lectures on a topic of interest to them. Becoming a clinical instructor and teaching for us is another way to get a foot in the door. We’re always looking for preceptors at the bedside for both our prelicensure students and our graduate student nurses. 

And of course, if you’re thinking about going back to school, you should attend a Zoom info session or chat with one of our admissions professionals to find out about your options and what program might help you achieve your goals. 

We recently guaranteed admission across our MSN, certificate, and DNP programs for our alumni, so if you already have a degree from our school, which many medical center nurses do, the application process is much, much easier. If you fulfill the requirements, you are guaranteed admission. If we educated you, we already know you’re great! 

Q: How can nurses find what you refer to as "professional joy"?

One of the ways to have professional joy in nursing is through lifelong learning. Keep finding things that interest you and that you want to learn more about. Within the medical center, you can try out different roles and at the School of Nursing, we have a lot of forums and seminars that are typically open to the public that showcase nurses and nursing across many different roles. Each person has to figure it out on their own, but we can help. If you want to know more about a particular kind of nursing—policymaking, for instance, nursing science, administrative leadership, or maybe something else—we can point you in the right direction.

Q: How do you personally cultivate professional joy?

I love to talk to our students and to practicing nurses. A couple of months ago, I saw a student sitting and reading a book. We started talking about the theory he was reading about and what he liked and didn’t like about his program. He asked me what I taught, and I smiled and told him I was the dean. We then proceeded to discuss the pros and cons of Watson’s theory of caring. In this kind of leadership position, you're so far removed, it's great get the chance to reconnect with students and learners. I consider myself a learner, too. 

We are in education to make sure that students can learn, but also to support one another outside the classroom. I tell students they can ask me anything. At the Nursing Professional Governance Organization (NPGO) meetings, I’ll say, “Do you have any questions for me? Remember, I’m your dean, too.”