By Angela Koenig
Karen Bankston, PhD, has joined the College of Nursing as associate dean for clinical practice, partnership and community engagement. As such, Bankston is responsible for developing and maintaining partnerships and collaborations with nursing and other disciplines to provide leading-edge clinical experiences for students and effective and efficient environments that support practice and teaching for College of Nursing faculty/staff.
"Together, with other professionals and community stakeholders we should be able to establish strong partnerships that support and evaluate the effectiveness of evidenced based delivery practices and add to the improvement of care in the region,” says Bankston.
What makes your role different than other faculty positions?
"My role is different in that it requires me to consistently connect the dots between the internal and external environments and their impact on students, faculty and staff experiences. So my ability to assess and assimilate information on behalf of the College of Nursing in various settings is key, as well as being able to be a connector and a skilled negotiator."
Being new to the College of Nursing, was the driving factor that brought you here?
"I have a passion for learning and assisting in driving change. I have spent the past 25 years leading large departments and organizations by working with individuals to establish systems that support high functioning care teams who deliver care to individuals during some of the most vulnerable periods of their life. I have learned so much about change, the process of change, the culture of change, people and how they deal with change and believe that our current systems must be transformed from what we know as health care into a system that really will help individuals be healthy. And I have always believed that nursing as a profession was the profession with the most well-rounded educational foundation to take a leadership role in that transformation. Dr. (Greer Glazer, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing) has set a vision and a tone for the College of Nursing that is very much aligned with the future of care delivery as I see it, and I want to be a part of that transformation."
What do you feel are the benefits of working at an academic health center?
"Academic health centers are in a good position to develop the exemplar behaviors that are going to be required to provide care across the continuum to an ever-increasing global community. Specifically, each of the disciplines brings something unique and valuable to the system of care delivery which when connected should equate to new models of care that can meet the needs of the changing population. AHCs support the use of translating science into practice, making the outcome of our work on the leading edge."
How has nursing changed since your early beginnings?
"Oh, yes. When I first entered into the field, nurses were still getting out of their seats and letting the physicians sit down, and our notes amounted to, 'Patient slept well.' Now, we are truly a part of the professional team, providing valuable information that impacts the lives of people. I believe that we still have some work to do on our collective self-esteem, specifically recognizing how important we are in the environment, no matter where we are providing care on the continuum, and seeing ourselves as leaders in our own right. And leaders, not by virtue of our title but because of the knowledge and experience that we hold related to serving others."
Have you had mentor in your career?
"I have had many individuals who have fed into my life. The first is my mom, Bettye Jones, who died several years ago. While she may not have had the college degrees or significant career, what she did have was a sense of pride in her children and a focus for us that we would be somebody someday and she was going to see to it. And she did for all four of us. Right next to her was her sister, my aunt, Mary Sangster, who is now 82 years young. An educator, who has stayed focused on living her best life, a role model for the family and so many others. In my professional life, I was fortunate to have Ruth Eldridge, RN, MSN, come into my life. She was the vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at Western Reserve Care System in Youngstown, Ohio, who got me started on my path to professional nursing excellence. She was a nurse advocate! She saw something in me that I did not see in myself. She guided me in understanding not just about the important role that nursing played in hospitals but how to live and work in organizations where you had to deal with the politics of being a woman. You see, while greater than 65 percent of the employee base at hospitals was female, the leadership has been primarily male and during those early years, they made that obvious and challenging. And for me, I had the additional burden of also being the first African-American nursing director; she was bold in selecting me, but was there to support me and see me succeed. The next person that poured into my life was Ken Hanover, who was the president and CEO of the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati. He selected me to be the chief operating officer of University Hospital, the senior vice president for external affairs for the Health Alliance and the CEO of Drake Center. Another bold step, multiple firsts and many challenges, but he was there to help me in navigating those challenges and recognized that there were things that he could also learn from me. So while he was mentoring me, I was mentoring him, as well. I must say that I have been so blessed to have crossed paths with many individuals with whom I have had the pleasure to learn from; some of those learnings were positive and others taught me what not to do. They have all culminated in building a compendium of values that I believe have guided my decisions and allowed me to have an absolutely great ride!"
What do you like to do in your spare time (hobby, interest)?
"Spare time? What's that? I travel and will get in the car and go on a whim. We love jazz and follow our favorite groups when we can. Just for the record, I love the Cleveland Browns! Soooo, I go to those games when I can. (I like the Bengals too but just not when they play the Browns). My favorite trips are on a cruise ship to the Caribbean! My husband and I will be going on our ninth one this December. I am a voracious reader and am generally reading a fiction and nonfiction at the same time. I love to sing and people say I am pretty good. I just started doing Zumba and find it to be fun, which is good because I hate exercising and know I need to do that. I play the piano for relaxing but generally won't play for anyone else. And when I can, I get my three sons and six grandchildren together, cook up some food and just do us!"