Sonja Meiers, PhD, APRN, CNS, PHN, AGCNS-BC, Professor and Chair of the Department of Graduate Nursing at Winona State University, has been selected to join the American Academy of Nursing’s 2020 Class of Fellows. Meiers will be inducted into this distinguished group of international nurse leaders at a virtual ceremony to be held on October 31, 2020 as part of the AAN’s annual Transforming Health, Driving Policy conference.
“Receiving this fellowship is very meaningful to me because I am being acknowledged by my peers in the profession that I love,” says Professor Meiers. “It also means being honored for my work as an international family nursing scholar and leader.” Advancing the nursing profession for the public good at both the local and global levels has been a central part of Meiers’ career as both a healthcare professional and as an educator. Meiers joined the faculty of Winona State University in 2009. She began her nursing career as a pediatric and school nurse before pursuing her Master’s and PhD and becoming a nurse educator and nurse scientist in family nursing. Meiers also currently serves as the President of the International Family Nursing Association.
“It is deep within my bones that I am ethically obligated as a nurse to understand the needs of patients, families, and communities and to do everything that I can to meet those needs within the parameters of healthcare,” Meiers says in describing her philosophy of nursing and nursing education. “Nurses must advocate for patients and families influenced by the social determinants of health within our culture so that health care is accessible to and effective for all. Our nursing contract is broad. It is our ethical obligation to care for and address the needs of our citizens, particularly those who are vulnerable.”
It is this commitment to the social contract of nursing that has inspired Prof. Meiers’ leadership within the Winona State University Department of Graduate Nursing and throughout the healthcare community. “I am an advocate for high quality nursing education that prepares students for complex environments,” she explains. “As a Professor and Chair of the Department of Graduate Nursing at Winona State, my goal is to constantly improve nursing education to prepare students for advanced nursing roles.” Meiers says one of her top priorities is to build and nurture graduate nursing programs so that WSU can continue to meet the evolving needs of our region. She credits her faculty colleagues and the administrative staff at WSU for working together to serve this community-driven mission. “Our work is to address the needs of the region through nursing education while being responsive to our community partners,” she says.
Mayo Clinic is one of the community partners that Professor Meiers works closely with and relies on to help inform how advanced nursing education can meet the needs of the community. She points to the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care and the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner programs as graduate programs created at WSU in response to specific educational needs that local healthcare providers identified. Dr. Meiers is also proud of the work WSU has done with the Rochester Healthy Community Partnership (RHCP), which has contributed a great deal to understanding of the needs of the vulnerable in the Rochester community and has informed directions for WSU’s advanced nursing education.
“We are trusted, we are connected, and we respond to their needs,” Prof. Meiers says about the valuable partnership with Mayo and RHCP. “Because Winona State is trusted, connected, and responsive to local partners like Mayo and RHCP, we will always be relevant, pragmatic, and innovative.”
Graduate nursing students at Winona State learn the public value of nurse leadership through these community partnerships. Inspired by Prof. Meiers’ deep commitment to the nursing social contract, her students are empowered to immerse themselves in advance nursing practices. “Dr. Meiers exemplifies ‘best practice’ by teaching the most current, evidence-based content to students,” says Kathleen Kopp, DNP, APRN, CNP, AGACNP-BC, a graduate of the Doctor of Nursing Program at WSU. “She educates students with a passionate, caring perspective encouraging every student to be the driver of his or her own future. She establishes firm and respectful expectations of graduate students as well as future advanced practice nurses. She provides a very insightful snapshot of advanced practice nursing that is encompassing and applicable for all graduate nursing students.”
It is this combination of community focus, advance nursing education advocacy, and international leadership in family nursing that led sponsors, Dr. Jane Lasseter, Brigham Young University, and Dr. June Horowitz, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, to nominate Prof. Meiers for Fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing. “The American Academy of Nursing focuses on the science and practice of nursing and advocates for the policy responsibility in our social contract for nursing,” Meiers says. “We work to advance the safety and quality of nursing care for patients and families as well as the safety and health of nurses across the profession.”
Prof. Meiers was nominated as an AAN Fellow by her colleagues and was accepted following a competitive, rigorous application process focused on her contributions to advance the public’s health. Though the induction ceremony will be held virtually this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Meiers says she is looking forward to the opportunity to come together with nurses from other areas and to learn more about the work and research of the Fellows she will be joining. The virtual ceremony will be streamed live on YouTube starting at 4:30 PM on October 31, 2020.
Meiers says she is honored to be joining this distinguished group of nurses and sees it as a great opportunity to continue to serve her role as a nurse educator leader on a global scale. She says she will continue to promote advance nursing education here in the region and throughout the world. “I am privileged to have the skills and ability to respond to the needs of the community,” says Meiers. “It is my driving force to use the gifts I’ve been given from nursing education to serve the needs of the community.”
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