Longtime nursing professor steps into dean role at School of Nursing

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During Dr. Libby Rosen’s more than 40 years as a nurse and nurse educator, she has gravitated toward a quote from Virginia Henderson, the renowned nursing theorist who has had a significant impact on how nurses practice today, to guide her. Rosen paraphrases it like this:

The unique role of the nurse is to do for the patient what they would do for themselves if they had the necessary strength, will, and knowledge.

In Rosen’s view, those words have stood the test of time and provided guidance and inspiration through her growth from wide-eyed nursing student, to labor and delivery nurse, to teacher and nursing professor, and ultimately, to her role today as dean of the School of Nursing at Baker University.

Where she once strove to give her patients the strength, will, and knowledge to do for themselves, she now endeavors to impart those qualities to Baker nursing students.

“What we want to do as a school is give students the strength to do this rewarding work. Give them the will to make that happen. We want students to be willing to think outside the box, to creatively try new things, and to use critical thinking and good clinical judgment in evidence-based practice.”

Libby Rosen, dean of the School of Nursing

Rosen assumed her role as dean on January 1 after serving in the position on an interim basis since October.

“We are thankful to Dr. Rosen for assuming the responsibilities of interim dean last fall. Her long history with both Baker University School of Nursing and Stormont Vail, the respect she has earned from the medical community and her colleagues, and the devotion to her students made the choice to name her dean an easy one,” said Dr. Lynne Murray, president of Baker University.

A Topeka native, she began her career in nursing after graduating in the mid-1970s from the Stormont Vail School of Nursing. She first worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Saint Francis Hospital in Topeka, then left to help start the first freestanding birth center in Kansas  before moving to Stormont Vail, where she worked in neonatal intensive care and labor delivery, worked as a nurse supervisor, and created with colleagues the breastfeeding follow-up clinic. All the while, she taught child and parenting classes. Rosen eventually returned to her education and, in 1994, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Washburn University. Fifteen years later she earned a PhD in nursing from the University of Kansas.

She began teaching as an adjunct and clinical instructor in Baker’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 2002 in obstetrics, pediatrics, and leadership and started teaching full time in the classroom in 2007. In 2016, with the opening of Baker’s Master of Science in Nursing program, she became the professor for research and nursing theory. When the opportunity came to assume leadership of the School of Nursing, which calls Stormont Vail Health and Topeka home, it seemed like a natural progression.

“I feel I know Baker and Stormont Vail,” Rosen said, as she pointed out the unique partnership that allows Baker nursing students to learn and gain clinical experience in a medical facility that has achieved Magnet status by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which recognizes the highest level of nursing excellence.

“I’ve worked with nursing students informally throughout my career and specifically since 2002. It’s exciting to be able to guide a program and hire excellent faculty for the students. Our faculty are creative, forward-thinking, and they have rich practice experience. They bring that knowledge to the classroom,” Rosen said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to enhance the program, build it, get more students involved, and continue in our excellence.”

All the while, Rosen plans to keep those words from Virginia Henderson at the forefront as she moves the School of Nursing forward into what she hopes is soon a post-pandemic era. She believes strongly in giving Baker nursing students all the resources needed to be successful. She believes in keeping open lines of communication with both students and faculty, helping everyone reach their highest potential.

“Stormont Vail Health could not be more pleased to have Libby Rosen assume the role of dean of Baker University School of Nursing,” said Carol Perry, senior vice president and chief nursing officer. “She has a passion for nursing and enthusiasm for teaching that’s second to none.”

Of course, Rosen knows none of these goals will come automatically or easily. But she says she’s committed to spending the rest of her professional life trying to live up to Henderson’s credo and the School of Nursing’s already stellar reputation.

“I hope to finish my career here having made this program stronger and better,” she said. “That’s going to be difficult, not due to obstacles, but because it’s already such a top-notch program.”