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Nursing Department Gets New Chair and New Space

Published: July 24, 2007
Ross Steps Down as Nursing Chair

By Robin Roger
UT Journal Writer

The nursing department underwent a changing of the guard July 1 when chair Dr. Nancy Ross handed off the position of nursing chair to new faculty member Maria R. Warda, RN, Ph.D.

Ross will stay on as a Dana professor of nursing, though her new status will allow her to take a sabbatical in the fall semester to work on her own projects.

Ross plans to conduct research on child trauma victims. Helping nurses understand their patients in the acute phase of trauma might help them further down the line, she said.

“If we could reach them in early childhood, we could reduce the number of adults walking around carrying all that pain,” she said.

Ross became involved in UT’s nursing department the beginning, helping to develop the RN to Bachelor of Science completion program, the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and the Master of Science in Nursing degree.

Integral to the program’s accreditation in the early ’80s, Ross authored a self-study which outlined the funding, campus resources, IT resources, staff and faculty, as well as the philosophy and mission of the program. Then she prepared for a site visit from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

“All of us who were here were rookies, so I’m sure we were nervous, but we sailed through,” she said.

Ross also helped orchestrate a relationship with Tampa General Hospital, where students do their clinical work.

Each year Tampa General Hospital provides $5,000 scholarships to UT seniors who commit to work at the hospital when they graduate. Last year, Ross said, they hired 15 of 34 graduating UT nursing students.

“They’re bright, articulate, eager learners, and we enjoy having them,” said Deana Nelson, executive vice president of Patient Care Services at Tampa General. “They do almost all their clinical work here, and they get to know not just the staff on the units, but the support staff, pharmacists and therapists. They really become part of the fabric of Tampa General.”

When Nelson and Ross first sat down to talk about the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, Nelson says she was impressed with Ross’s preparation. When Ross sent the application to the state board of nursing, it was approved the first time through, which Nelson says is unusual.

“She does her homework and knows what she’s doing,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of good people in nursing who know their stuff. She’s exceptional.”

The incoming chair, Warda, was on hand in early July when the nursing department got the first peek of its new digs on the southeast corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Hyde Park Avenue.

“We just came back from there this morning and it exceeded my expectations,” she said. “It’s a beautiful space. Not only will we be able to work in that space, but it is a big morale booster.”

Warda said she looks forward to sharing her experience in undergraduate education with the faculty and building a strong and successful program.

Most of her experience is in graduate education, but Warda spent the last six years building an undergraduate nursing program at Georgia Southwestern State University. Before that, she served as assistant dean at the University of California at San Francisco. She has a master’s degree in psychiatric mental health nursing, and she has spent most of her career in administration in academia and for health care organizations.

“Maria joins us at a time when the foundation in nursing is strong and deep, thanks to all of your commitment and dedicated efforts under Nancy's leadership,” said Dr. Stephen Kucera, interim dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences in an e-mail to faculty and staff.

Kucera continued, “It is not easy to find the words that express the depth of appreciation that I know in my heart we all feel for what Nancy has done for the nursing program and its students during her tenure as director.”