June 21st, 2007 | Following the Leaders
Today’s column is going to be a little different. I’m writing about someone that I met a long time ago that changed the course of my professional life. I’m not alone. She’s helped countless nurses find their voice as nurse writers.
I first interviewed Jeanne Sorrell, RN, PhD, FAAN, back in 1999 when I started writing for Nursing Spectrum Magazine. Dr. Sorrell is a professor of nursing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and she met me at her office for the interview. I remember asking her about the program that she had developed for the university that teaches nurses how to write. She said that the idea for the program all started when she was in nursing school, and when she noticed that many nurses were unable to write concise nurses notes. She voiced an understanding that nurses can’t communicate with each other, or with anyone else if they don’t know how to write. Sorrell said that the English courses she took as a student weren’t designed to meet the needs of nurses, and that’s why she developed the writing program for George Mason’s nursing students. She encouraged me to keep writing before I left her office.
Sorrell is always looking for new ways to teach and inspire others. She said that she made a commitment to taking a creative approach to nursing education after two students commented that the educational process took creativity out of students. She said that she tried to emphasize creative approaches to learning because tomorrow’s nurses are going to have to solve complex problems. She said that creativity is a valuable problem-solving tool essential to the ever-evolving profession of nursing.
Dr. Sorrell’s impact in nursing is felt throughout the profession. She is multitalented, and works within many nursing arenas. According to the Center For Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason:
“Dr. Sorrell’s primary nursing background is in adult health. In her doctoral program, she focused on curriculum design, ethics, and writing. In the College, she has served in administrative capacities as Coordinator of the Advanced Clinical Nursing Program, Coordinator of the PhD in Nursing Program, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Research, and Acting Dean for Nursing. She teaches at all levels within the School of Nursing, including Nursing Education courses in the MSN and PhD programs, Qualitative Research Methods, Nurses as Writers, and The Scholarship of Writing. She received a University Teaching Excellence Award, the Nursing Spectrum Nurse Excellence Award for Teaching for the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia Region, and the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty in Virginia Award. Dr. Sorrell’s research areas of interest are ethics and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as educational research.”
Sorrell and her students wrote a book in 2002 called the Magic Stethoscope. The goal of the book was to teach youngsters about the nursing profession, and the book was the winner of the 2003 American Academy of Nursing Media Award. Dr. Sorrell was also awarded Nursing Spectrum’s Excellence Award in 2006.
Dr. Sorrell is a nursing leader because she cares about her students and because she inspires others. She told me to keep writing, and I’ve never stopped.
Photograph of Dr. Sorrell is from Nursing Spectrum Magazine.