Purdue Nurse Online
Nancy Edwards: Impassioned teacher and caregiver
Where you see great achievement, you can expect to find passion in equal measure. This is true of Nancy Edwards, whose enthusiasm and dedication to her students and patients has brought repeated accolades. Most recently, in June 2017, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) singled her out for its State Award for Excellence. The award is given annually to a nurse practitioner who has "made a significant contribution toward increasing the awareness and acceptance of NPs."
An associate professor of nursing, Edwards also is director of the Purdue primary care adult gerontology nurse practitioner program. She is known for her research into nonchemical ways to improve quality of life for those with all forms of dementia, their loved ones and caregivers, and communities at large. She has studied the effects of animal-assisted therapy, including robotic dogs, and chair-based exercise therapy for patients as well as the differing needs of family caregivers based on the challenges posed by various kinds of dementia.
As a faculty member and clinical preceptor, she has guided the education of 89 nurse practitioner students and served as chair for 42 master's students as well as 21 students seeking their doctor of nursing practice degrees.
Edwards says her work allows her to pursue two passions — patient care and student education. To illustrate the reward of educating others, she's quick to share an anecdote from her own recent physical exam.
"I went to my physician yesterday and asked him what he thinks of our graduates. He said he loved how confident and skilled they were in their diagnostics," Edwards says. "I'm with them for two years, and I take them into clinical with me. And then they eventually take students and do the same thing. So it's like I've paid it forward."
One day a week, Edwards sees patients at Riggs Community Health Center near campus in Lafayette. Dr. Bambi McQuade-Jones, president and CEO at Riggs, has known Edwards for over three years, and is impressed by how well she manages her dual role.
"Being an educator in itself is difficult, but Dr. Edwards is current, evidence-based and up to date. It's very difficult to do both," McQuade-Jones says. "She is an amazing provider, and her care is phenomenal. She works extremely well with her students, she's easy to work with, she's accepting and she encourages peer-to-peer learning."
Edwards' achievements have earned her other awards, including the 2015 Amy J. Berman Geriatric Nursing Leadership Award from Sigma Theta Tau International. The award, given to Edwards in early 2017, recognizes her work as a champion of interprofessional gerontological education and significant research contributions to the health care of older adults. She also received the 2018 Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
At the moment, Edwards is particularly enthusiastic about an initiative the nurse practitioner students participate in through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), based in Boston. All nurse practitioner graduates are participating in the online IHI program Open School, which offers training that enhances graduates' skills in health care improvement, safety and leadership.
"Not only are they providing care to their patients, but they are learning how to assess the safety and quality of the institutions where they work," she says.
Asked how she would sum up her love for her work, Edwards says: "I get to teach students and I get to do research on a topic that I love, so I have the best of all worlds."