Nursing dean reflects on journey to IUPUI

By Rich Schneider, IU Communications Specialist:

The career of Indiana University School of Nursing Dean Robin Newhouse has been marked by purpose and serendipity, a combination that brought her to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“In some ways my trajectory here has been somewhat unexpected, but it is clear that it’s not,” said Newhouse, who became dean of the IU School of Nursing on July 1. “What appears to be serendipity really has been very purposeful and absolutely right.

Robin Newhouse

Robin Newhouse

She had not been thinking of leaving Maryland, where she and her husband had lived their entire lives, nor their home, which was a part of her grandfather’s farm where she and her husband, Frank, had lived since 1979. She also hadn’t thought of leaving the University of Maryland, where she had spent eight years, the last four as a professor and chair of the nursing school’s Department of Organizational Systems and Adult Health.

“It was one of those things,” Newhouse said. “I was not looking for a dean position, but a colleague I consult with asked if I would consider it. Being selected as a candidate for the job was an honor.”

When she visited the nursing school, Newhouse said she was struck by what she saw.

“The quality of the faculty and staff is very high, with world-class researchers, teachers and leaders who are well-known for their impact and scholarship,” Newhouse said. But the character of the individuals who comprise the school impressed her most of all, she said. “They are good people.”

The fact that she entered the field of nursing is a bit serendipitous too.

She was studying to be a teacher. But those plans changed after the experiences she had as a candy striper and as a nursing assistant in the emergency room at a local hospital.

“The nurses I saw were pretty incredible,” she said. “They were so impressive, the way they advocated and cared for patients, and made me realize that they were the glue that held acute care services together. They changed people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Newhouse, enrolled in community college, switched to a two-year nursing program. That program allowed her to become a licensed practical nurse at the end of the first year. She then worked for a year as a licensed practical nurse in a physician’s office while she completed the second year.

As a registered nurse, Newhouse quickly moved through nursing ranks as she became a charge nurse, served as supervisor of ambulatory services and opened a surgery center.

As she began shouldering additional responsibilities for patients as well as budgets for hospital services, Newhouse turned to higher education to help prepare her for the work ahead.

Over the years, she returned to the University of Maryland campuses three times, receiving a Bachelor of Science in nursing, a master’s in general administration, with a major in health care, and a Master of Science and a Ph.D. from the School of Nursing.

When she finished her doctorate, Newhouse became a nurse researcher at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

During the five years at Johns Hopkins, she led the development of the nursing evidence-based practice model that is now used internationally. Moving to Johns Hopkins also meant that she would be teaching for the first time.

“I loved teaching,” she said. “That was a surprise since I was so grounded in enhancing the translation of evidence to clinical practice.”

Newhouse left Johns Hopkins for the University of Maryland, where she spent the first four years as an assistant dean of the newly implemented Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

When Newhouse was selected as dean of the IU School of Nursing, then-IUPUI executive vice chancellor Nasser Paydar said, “Dr. Newhouse’s expertise, leadership and international recognition in research will be critically important as our campus and university advance our strategic goals for catalyzing research and accelerating innovation and discovery.”

In 2014, Newhouse was inducted into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. Created in 2010, the Hall of Fame is one of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing’s International Awards for Nursing Excellence. The award recognizes nurse researchers who have achieved significant and sustained broad national or international recognition for their work, and whose research has had an impact on the profession and the people it serves.

Having become dean of the IU School of Nursing, Newhouse looks ahead toward the next decade.

“My goal is to accelerate the impact of nurses through education, research, service and practice in collaborative relationships with patients, health systems, stakeholders and interprofessional colleagues,” she said

Before coming to IUPUI, she had already begun to see her career entering a phase that had less to do with her individual work and more to do with enhancing the work of others on behalf of patients and the nursing profession. “That’s why this position made perfect sense.

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