School of Nursing honored with international Healthy Work Environment Award

The School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) has been named the recipient of a Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing’s 2023 Healthy Work Environment Award.

Sigma’s two awards recognize and honor an academic setting and clinical facility that demonstrate a commitment to promoting a healthy work environment and excellence in health care outcomes. The School of Nursing, the academic award winner, and Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Unit 2E, the clinical honoree, will be recognized during Sigma’s Creating Healthy Work Environments event Feb. 10-12 in Austin.

Sigma President Kenneth Dion, PhD, MSN, MBA, RN, RCSI, FAAN, said, “The 2023 academic and clinical honorees have taken bold action to ensure their respective work environments are healthy, welcoming places valuing representation, compassion and collaboration. I congratulate Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Unit 2E and the School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio for their accomplishments and leadership in this critical area.”

Sonya Hardin, PhD, MBA/MHA, APRN, FAAN, professor and dean of UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing, will accept the school’s award. UT Health San Antonio faculty members Megan Pfitzinger Lippe, PhD, MSN, RN, and Jacqueline McGrath, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN, will give a plenary presentation at the  meeting titled, “Faculty, Staff and Students Matter.”

Kerlene T. Richards, DNP, RN, NE-BE, CCRN, and Rachel Landau, BSN, RN, BC, representing the Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Unit 2E, will present “One Unit’s Journey Toward Building a Culture of Compassion & Collaboration #Healthyworkenvironment.”

The road to a healthy workplace

Hardin praised the efforts taken by the School of Nursing over the past six years to create a healthier work and school environment. “While many people in our school worked to create this supportive environment, I especially want to acknowledge three leaders who were involved in this effort: Dr. Megan Lippe, who recognized our excellence and suggested that we submit an application for this award, Dr. Jacquelyn McGrath and Dr. Vanessa Meling.”

Lippe, who joined the faculty in 2021, is an associate professor of nursing, chair-elect of the School of Nursing’s Faculty Assembly and chair of the PhD Committee on Graduate Studies. “The School of Nursing has an organizational structure that facilitates faculty, staff and student engagement in the decision-making process,” she said. “The Faculty Assembly; Staff Assembly; Nursing Student Council; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council; and the Committee on Faculty, Staff and Student Matters provide opportunities to voice opinions, concerns and solutions, and to facilitate shared governance.

“The Committee on Faculty, Staff and Student Matters is truly a unique collaboration that promotes communication and interaction among faculty, staff and students; student achievement; and collaboration with the Student Success Center and the Office of Faculty Excellence to provide campuswide and School of Nursing recognition for all concerned,” she added.

McGrath joined the School of Nursing in 2018. As a professor and vice dean for faculty excellence, she led restructuring of the School of Nursing Office of Faculty Excellence. A key element was realigning the professional goals of individual faculty members with the School of Nursing’s mission. Through this effort, she said, “The OFE provides a yearlong mentoring program for newly hired full-time faculty with activities designed to support both mentors and mentees. Each new faculty member is paired with two mentors based on their professional goals [teaching, research and patient care], giving new faculty more of a voice and support in their chosen career path.” A Faculty Mentoring Handbook produced by a School of Nursing work group in 2017, along with workshops and companion books, help support this effort.

Meling, who has a doctorate in education and a master’s in business administration, is an assistant professor and associate dean for School of Nursing’s Student Success Center. The center provides students with a full spectrum of academic support beginning with mentoring their first semester and continuing with academic preparation until their licensure exam after graduation. “The support services target the holistic needs of students. We provide academic coaching, peer-assisted learning sessions, tutoring, career readiness resources and student leader development. We also work closely with the Office of Student Life to meet the physical and psychosocial needs of students including recreation, financial aid, counseling services and veteran support. In addition, the Student Success Center is one of the largest employers of students on campus,” Meling said, helping students focus on their success as a student while receiving a stipend for mentoring others.

Evidence-based outcomes

Evidence shows that these efforts are working:

  • Evaluation surveys from the faculty mentoring program highlight positive results for both mentees and mentors.
  • In 2021, 80% of faculty completed the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Standpoint Faculty Engagement Survey. Results showed improvement since 2016 in every category including school culture, faculty governance, faculty experience, growth opportunities and promotion equity.
  • Annual School of Nursing staff surveys show similar satisfaction and improvement.
  • In 2020-2021, the Student Success Center scholarship awards totaled $710,334, peer-assisted learning helped 729 students, tutors provided 717 one-on-one sessions and leadership development supported 167 students.
  • Licensure pass rates have improved from below 80% to above 90% between 2014 and 2021.

“All of these successes can easily be attributed to our highly supportive environment for faculty, staff and students during a time when COVID changed the world,” Lippe said.








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