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Nursing Researcher Honored with Distinguished Contributions to Lifelong Learning Award


For immediate release
Date:    June 3, 2010

It’s the ultimate tech transfer. JoAnne Whitney, a professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems at the School of Nursing, conducts clinically focused research in wound healing. As leader of a Continuing Nursing Education team, she brings her latest scientific findings and those of her UW and national colleagues straight into practice by educating healthcare providers in evidence based care approaches to healing.

“I try to link the care and the science together,” says Whitney. She believes that lifelong learning helps people make those linkages between practical experience and scientific knowledge that increase depth of understanding. “It takes time in practice to accrue a base of knowledge and experience,” she says. Add a booster shot of science on top of that and “now they understand things they’re seeing with their patients with new insight.”

For her efforts, Whitney has been honored with the Distinguished Contributions to Lifelong Learning Award.
The award is presented to faculty who have taught for at least two years in non-degree programs sponsored by the UW and aimed at adults for professional development, personal interest, or career redirection.

Whitney has been a catalyst in the Continuing Nursing Education Program development. She led efforts to secure the four training grants used to establish the UW Wound Management Education Program and the UW Ostomy Management Education Program. These programs address critical needs in our community and are unique among a small number of other programs in the country, none of which are on the West Coast. It would be difficult to estimate the number of patients who have already benefited from services provided by graduates of these programs but it would certainly number in the hundreds, many of whom live in rural areas where wound and ostomy related healthcare services may be limited.

Whitney’s contribution to lifelong learning doesn’t end there. She also serves as faculty liaison for Continuing Nursing Education’s innovative distance learning Medical-Surgical Nursing Education Program, developed in partnership with UW Medical Center. It serves more than 300 nurses in urban and rural areas who attend onsite at 15 hospitals throughout Washington, Alaska and Idaho or online. She’s also actively involved with staff nurses and clinical specialists at Harborview Medical Center who are engaged in learning and implementing clinical inquiry at the bedside.

“It’s all about meeting students where they are, helping them move to the next level of knowledge and skills whether they’re in a practice setting or an academic setting,” says Whitney. Asked about any differences in her experience with continuing education students, Whitney explains how she tailors her teaching approaches to the audience. “Our continuing education students are professionals who want practical, evidence-based information to enhance their work with patients immediately. You have to be really practice-relevant or you lose them.”

She also talks about the satisfaction of working with continuing education students and the “opportunity to really change people’s practice.” “They inspire me. They’re already passionate about the material and they’ve come back [to the classroom] because they really want to be there. Their enthusiasm and level of commitment to learning is really great—it makes it fun to work with them.”

She’s inspiring those students in return. She says her role is to expose clinicians to using research and being involved in it. She’s obviously successful in demystifying the role and process of scientific inquiry: A significant number of her students come back for graduate school.

Whitney says that collaboration is critical to the development of successful continuing education programs. The Wound Management Education Program, the Ostomy Management Education Program and the Medical-Surgical Nursing Education Program all are partnerships of community specialists, clinical faculty, research academicians and Continuing Nursing Education staff. She also emphasizes the strength in partnering with “the people who know the continuing education machine,” which includes experts in marketing, administration, program management and student support services. “When you bring together these groups focusing on their own niche, you get a much richer program,” she says.

She brings the team approach to teaching as well. While other wound programs might be taught by one person, the Wound Management Education Program engages three principal instructors plus a number of guest lecturers. “This provides more diversity of thinking and approaches for the student.”

Whitney’s efforts not only result in improved health care for the citizens of our region but add visibility to the UW and the School of Nursing as a center of excellence in lifelong learning.


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently the nation’s No. 1-ranked nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 3 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service.