Amanda Kirkpatrick, PhD, BSN’05, knew she wanted to be a nurse at 14.
She was helping to care for a neighbor with dementia, and the man’s full-time caregiver encouraged her to find work as a certified nursing assistant in a local nursing home.
“It was there, working in the Alzheimer’s unit, that I discovered my passion for nursing,” Kirkpatrick says.
That passion drove her to achieve; it fueled her through a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD program. Today, Kirkpatrick is an assistant professor in Creighton University’s College of Nursing. And her star is on the rise.
Kirkpatrick has been chosen as one of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation’s 2019 Macy Faculty Scholars. The program, open to educators in medicine and nursing nationwide, selects up to five scholars annually to receive salary support and extensive career development training.
The program, which received more than 70 applicants this year, aims to identify innovators in medicine and nursing education and give them the resources to establish new programs at their respective institutions. The chosen scholars also receive mentoring and career advice from a national committee of professionals.
“The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation is really interested in developing the next generation of innovators in interprofessional education. They want to develop national leaders,” says Gail Jensen, PhD, dean of the Graduate School and College of Professional Studies at Creighton. “Mandy’s a delight. She’s a rock star. She’s going to go far. She’s a great example of what learning is all about, and she’s doing this for all the right reasons.”
The foundation seeks scholars with the potential to change health care education at the national level, says Jensen, whom Kirkpatrick selected as a senior faculty mentor. Applicants must identify and outline educational initiatives they hope to implement at home; Kirkpatrick’s goal is to expand and improve Creighton’s palliative care education, making it more comprehensive and applicable to distance learning students.
“She is at the perfect stage in her career, where the Macy award would have maximum impact,” says Catherine Todero, PhD, BSN’72, dean of the College of Nursing. “Her proposed project could become a driver for changing the health education system in ways that would more adequately meet the health care needs of the public and substantially advance the conversations around palliative and end-of-life care.”
Kirkpatrick first became interested in palliative care after her mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was seeing what it was like as a family member to advocate for my mother-in-law. And I felt a little uncomfortable in that situation,” she says. “I felt, as a nurse, I should feel comfortable talking with my mother-in-law and father-in-law about what she wanted.”
Kirkpatrick explored palliative care education in her doctoral dissertation, earning recognitions for excellence by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Midwest Nursing Research Society. Her work involved a pilot program in which she sought to enhance the realism of end-of-life simulations for undergraduate nursing students.
“(I wanted to) help other undergraduate nursing students be competent in palliative care and confident in having these difficult conversations,” she says.
Kirkpatrick has also pioneered the implementation of palliative care coursework in Creighton’s health care curriculum. Working alongside faculty in the College of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, as well as members of CHI Health’s palliative care and hospice teams, Kirkpatrick and her colleagues developed an interdisciplinary elective, IPE 515 – Interprofessional Palliative Care, in which students engage in live-action scenarios, making treatment decisions for palliative care patients played by actors. Distance learners interact with “patients” through internet video platforms, such as Zoom, in what Kirkpatrick calls Virtual Interprofessional Simulations, or VISion.
Through her selection by the Macy Foundation, Kirkpatrick hopes to grow the number of VISion scenarios, allowing students to engage in palliative care situations that they could encounter in actual practice, including those involving pediatric, multicultural or veteran patients.
The Macy Foundation will provide partial salary support for at least two years. Kirkpatrick will also be assigned a national mentor and attend professional development courses at the Harvard Macy Institute in Boston.
“Dr. Kirkpatrick has a track record of leading innovative projects, with a clear vision of her research trajectory,” says Joan Lappe, PhD, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Dr. Kirkpatrick to focus on her palliative care initiative as a step to becoming an outstanding nurse leader who will advance nursing science and education in palliative care to momentous levels.”