Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


Remarks upon receiving Distinguished Alumnus Award

Distinguished Alumnus Award 2015 - Haas
Sheila A. Haas, MSN '74, PhD, RN, FAAN
Remarks upon receiving Distinguished Alumnus Award Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing Blessing of the Hands Mass and Alumni Awards Brunch June 6, 2015 Mundelein Center

It is an honor to be selected as the 2015 Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing Distinguished Alumnus Awardee.  

I have been asked to speak for a few minutes about how my experiences in the Master’s program at Loyola University Chicago influenced my personal and professional life. Let me share a recent experience that I think illustrates how my Loyola education experience continues to shape my professional and personal life. 

I just returned from the QSEN National Conference where I was a featured speaking about translational research that I led with several colleagues to develop the RN Care Coordination and Transition Management Competencies. Working on this research and dissemination of it using the QSEN KSAs i.e., knowledge, skills and attitudes to structure understanding and practice of CCTM affirmed for me that attitude trumps knowledge and skills. 

The greatest gift of a Jesuit education in my view, is the shaping of students’ attitudes.  As you know, attitudes are challenging to teach and learn, but once embraced by a learner are even harder to change. 

So how did Jesuit education influence my development of attitudes? It started with the experiences of cura personalis that were exemplified by my Loyola masters faculty. 

As you know, “Cura Personalis" is a Latin phrase that means "Care for the entire person". “Cura Personalis” suggests individualized attention to the needs of the other, distinct respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns, and an appropriate appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.   

A quick example: I had my second child in the summer between my first and second year of masters classes, I was committed to breast feeding, but classes were moved from 2 half days to 1 full day a week. This was not conducive to feeding a 6 week old, although I tried the run to and from home over lunch break – my stress did not provide a good feeding experience for either of us. 

Finally, I went to our two major faculty and asked if I could bring my son to class (the faculty were Imogene King and Myra Levine, two major theorists) and I had no idea if they would embrace this request. Their answer was yes and my son quickly had two new grandparents. 

This willingness to understand and empathize with where a student is, is a hallmark of Jesuit education and lays the foundation for nursing students’ attitudes about caring for others. 

Another expectation of Jesuit education is that students will strive for excellence, this combines well with cura personalis, so that faculty work with students where they are to build on their strengths and help them stretch to be all that they can be. I can say that I was truly stretched during my master’s education and continue to be stretched as a teacher within a Jesuit University. 

Finally, let me say a bit about social justice and Jesuit education. We have to some extent a head start on this, since persons who aspire to be nurses often are altruistic and Jesuit education builds on this with the expectation that care is for the whole person and family. Today, nurses with strong attitudes, awareness of social justice issues, and willingness to advocate for patients and families are more important than ever. 

So back to our work with RN Care Coordination and Transition Management competencies. I have been asked why would I work on a two plus year project as a volunteer? It comes down to attitudes shared by my colleagues who led this project and all the experts who were volunteers in the development of the CCTM competencies. 

We knew that RNs could and should do this work, because patients needed this level of care in our complex sick care system. Within this project, we as nurses have been confronted by the realization that often it is the social determinants (poverty, poor housing, lack of education, health literacy, food insecurity and psychological and dependency problems) that exacerbate illness, decrease quality of life and force patients and families to frequently access the emergency department and hospital. 

Nurses need to advocate for these patients both at the individual and policy level. Social justice attitudes sustain our work as nurses when we do not accept risk stratification for patient population methods that do not take social determinants into account, when we do not accept administrative choices of assessment tools that do not include social determinants as predictors of patients’ needs claiming that they are too complex and time consuming. I could go on and on.

Jesuit education has shaped my attitudes and has influenced my professional persona as a nurse researcher, scholar, administrator and an advocate for change. I know that Loyola University Chicago prepares nurses with attitude and I mean this in as a positive. 

Over the years, I have had employers say they want to hire Loyola nurses. I believe what they often didn’t say was that these attitudes are what make a Loyola educated nurse, an exceptional nurse.

Finally, I wish also to recognize my husband Tim, who was also Jesuit educated, who has been my partner, supporter, sounding board, and who shares these attitudes. I could not have become the person and professional that I am, were it not for knowing that he was at my side and at times covering my back. 

Thank you.