The founding dean of the George Washington University School of Nursing will step down at the end of the next academic year, after guiding GW’s newest school to national prominence during a period of profound change in health care delivery. Dean Jean Johnson has decided to return to the faculty at the end of the next academic year.
“I have had an incredibly rewarding career,” Dr. Johnson said. “I have always enjoyed telling people that there is nothing that I was passionate about that I haven’t been able to do at George Washington. I have had opportunities that I had never dreamed of having and am looking forward to my next adventures, including returning to my teaching and research roots.”
Dr. Johnson, who joined GW in 1981 as a geriatric nurse practitioner and has served in numerous administrative roles, has, in the three years since its inception, established the School of Nursing as a leader in critical issues such as improving the quality of health care, empowering nurses with advanced degrees and training in state-of-the-art simulation labs at the university’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus and increasing access to primary care in poverty-stricken and rural communities abroad and in the U.S.
Just this year, for example, the School of Nursing signed an innovative statewide agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia that guarantees admission into GW’s nursing programs to students with associate’s degrees from accredited community college nursing programs across the state. The agreement, hailed by state officials as a model for the country, allows Virginia community college graduates to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing from GW while continuing to live in and serve their home communities. In addition, Dr. Johnson was the national program director for a Robert Wood Johnson project to take primary care education programs into underserved areas across the country.
“Dean Johnson has worked tirelessly to realize an ambitious vision for our School of Nursing,” George Washington President Steven Knapp said. “Her effective and collaborative leadership, dedication to improving health care quality and commitment to educating nursing leaders have set her school on a very strong foundation.”
Within the School of Nursing, Dr. Johnson is credited with encouraging a culture of collegiality and recruiting what she has called the “best faculty ever.” That, in part, has allowed the school to foster innovation into areas of opportunity, and respond quickly to the changing health care systems and markets, such as when the school started an accelerated bachelor’s and served as an early adopter of and leader in online programs.
“As founding dean of the School of Nursing, Jean Johnson has made an incredible contribution to the university,” Provost Steven Lerman said. “Her ability to envision new programs for the school in its startup phase has been extraordinary. She has been a strong partner and leader who has engendered enormous trust from her faculty and students, which has been a great positive for the school and the university as a whole.”
Building GW’s Health Sciences Program, for which Dr. Johnson previously served as senior associate dean, is another point of pride in Dr. Johnson’s time at GW. She expanded the program from a small student enrollment to nearly 1,000 students and added several programs, including the Doctor of Physical Therapy as well as clinical research administration and the nursing programs.
As a researcher, Dr. Johnson has been deeply involved in quality improvement in nursing throughout her career. She has been a leading faculty member of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a senior consultant on the Nursing Alliance for Quality Care and had worked in quality improvement in nursing homes for many years teaching and promoting the Quest for Quality program offered through the American Care Association and worked to improve nurse assistant training.
Dr. Johnson is also a recognized leader of nurse practitioner education and practice, serving as president of the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties and of the American College of Nurse Practitioners. She has been a leader in policy issues related to nurse practitioner education standards, reimbursement and establishing a regulatory model for advanced practice registered nurses. Additionally, she has served on the Pew Health Professions Commission, the National Fund for Medical Education and the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on the Future of Primary Care.
In the coming years, the School of Nursing will continue working toward several goals, including: developing a bachelor’s of science in nursing program that enables military personnel and veterans trained as medics and independent duty corpsmen to apply their clinical experience to becoming nurses; launching a Doctor of Nursing degree program in executive leadership in partnership with the School of Business; and exploring a master’s degree in global health nursing in partnership with the School of Public Health and Health Services and Elliott School of International Affairs.
“This is a good time to transition not only for me personally but for the school as well. This is just the right time for new leadership,” said Dr. Johnson. “It’s important to know when to step aside—on a high note!”