Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the Brooks College of Health has continuously been a leader in educating health-care professionals. The college’s outstanding undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs continue to gain national prominence based on their emphasis on experiential learning in clinical settings and laboratories, the use of cutting-edge technology and the expert faculty who bring years of field experience, research and knowledge into the classroom.
Recently, thanks to nursing professorships established with a $3.6 million gift from Brooks Rehabilitation in 2006, the college added another renowned expert to its faculty: Dr. Carol Ledbetter, who was hired to share her expertise with students in the doctor of nursing practice program.
In her 40-year nursing career, Ledbetter has been involved in all sectors of health care, from patient care to research and education. She has worked as a nurse, an educator, administrator and family nurse practitioner in urban areas in six states; as a senior vice president, chief operating officer and business owner in the corporate sector; and as a flight nurse and chief nurse in the United States Air Force Reserve.
Students in the Brooks College of Health stand to benefit from Ledbetter’s experience and research in evidence-based practice, which focuses on an evaluative and qualitative approach to health care. She also has important experience in rural nursing, an area the college will likely include in its future curriculum for nursing students.
“Dr. Ledbetter has authored many articles on evidence-based practice, which is the foundation for the doctor of nursing practice program,” Dr. Li Loriz, director of UNF’s School of Nursing said. “She also is a nurse practitioner with experience in rural health. Although currently our community-based nursing program focuses mostly on urban populations, there is tremendous need in nearby rural communities. Dr. Ledbetter’s experience in this area will be invaluable to the School of Nursing.”
Ledbetter left the Oregon this past summer, where she’d been the associate dean for the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing in La Grande, moved to Florida, and began teaching at UNF in August. But it was not her first exposure to the Jacksonville campus.
Ledbetter first came to UNF in 2003, as an on-site evaluator for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education during the college’s accreditation visit. As a seasoned on-site evaluator reviewing nursing programs nationwide, Ledbetter knew what to look for in quality programs — and she liked what she saw at UNF.
“What I saw was a school that was vibrant and very exciting. The president [John Delaney] was brand new at the time, and I loved the way he talked about nursing and how important it was,” she said. “The sincerity in his vision, not only for the University but the [Brooks] College of Health, and also his unfettered support, all of that was very evident.”
As part of the accreditation process, Ledbetter met with UNF faculty, members of the community, students and administrators, including Dr. Pam Chally, dean of the Brooks College of Health. “I just absolutely adored her, and I loved her vision for where things were going to head; not running toward it, but methodically going toward a vision,” she said.
Over the last six years, Ledbetter has kept an eye on UNF, watching as its nursing program gained flagship status and the Brooks College of Health introduced new doctoral programs in nursing and physical therapy. She stayed in the loop by chatting with UNF faculty at national meetings and conferences and reviewing their published work. When she discovered three former colleagues — Drs. Patrick Monahan, Jane McCarthy and John McDonough — were part of the college’s nursing and nurse anesthetist programs, it piqued her interest in UNF. The four had worked together at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
“We were all military veterans, and we knew playing in the sandbox together was the way you get it done,” Ledbetter said. “We got together and really helped shape the graduate school of nursing, which was in its infancy. We put together the infrastructure that schools need to run well.”
Last spring, Ledbetter contacted McDonough to inquire about UNF, discovered the nursing program had an opening and within two days submitted her application. Her extensive background in research, practice and education surely made her an ideal candidate for the position – and she got the job.
Chally is thrilled to welcome Ledbetter to the college, pointing out her distinguished career, innovative and visionary leadership skills and high-profile positions in national professional organizations. “She is a revered and demonstrated leader in nursing education, research and practice, and many of her published articles focus on evidence-based practice, resulting from her deep interest in the process of translating research into practice,” Chally said. “We’re so excited she’s here to teach nursing students at all levels of their education.”
But Chally and Loriz aren’t the only ones pleased Ledbetter’s here to help guide the School of Nursing into the national spotlight.
“We are glad the Brooks College of Health has been able to use the interest from our gift to invest in a faculty member of this caliber,” said Douglas Baer of Brooks Rehabilitation. “We know excellent faculty, such as Dr. Ledbetter, will positively impact the nursing education of UNF’s graduates. In the end, the entire community benefits.”
When talking with Ledbetter about her chosen profession, one thing is clear: She’s passionate about nursing. She could talk for hours about the country’s nursing shortage, the multiple career options available to nurses, the thrill of helping to save someone’s life and the joy of being a nurse educator.
“I will stand up anywhere and tell people I’m a nurse,” she said. “My love of the profession is unqualified. I love teaching and learning from my students — and I love the people I work with.”