When EveryNurse.org asked Dr. Meredith Wallace Kazer, PhD, APRN, A/GNP-BC, FAAN, to describe the “ideal” or “perfect” nurse; her response vividly depicted someone smart (she emphasized “smart” mentioning it twice) – healthy, kind, caring, brave, energetic and a good communicator. The qualities she named proved to be more than just a list of quintessential characteristics for someone in the nursing profession. Ironically, and certainly unintentionally, Meredith had fairly well described herself.
Her accomplishments in award-winning, clinical, education, and academic research combined with prolific literary contributions (author of ten books and over 70 peer-reviewed journal articles), fill out the pages of a resume like few we’ve ever seen. Continue reading to learn more about Meredith’s unique insights into the field of nursing and follow her path from student to Dean and Professor at Fairfield University.
Awards & Achievements
Mometrix (2015) Named 10th Most Influential Dean in the U.S.A.
Named 1 of the 15 Top Adult Gerontology Nursing Professors by NursePractitionerSchools.com
Connecticut Nurse Association (2013) Virginia Henderson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Nursing Research
American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award (2012) for Case Studies in Gerontological Nursing for the Advanced Practice Nurse
American Academy of Nursing Fellowship Induction (2011)
American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award (2007) for Encyclopedia of Nursing Research 2nd Ed.
American Cancer Society Travel Scholarship recipient (2007)
Sigma Theta Tau, Mu Chi Chapter, Excellence in Nursing Research Award (2004)
Eastern Nursing Research Society & John A. Hartford Foundation Junior Investigator Award (2004)
American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Award (2003) for Prostate Cancer: Nursing Assessment, Management & Care
Interview - Question & Answer
You have accomplished so much in your career. What, or who, do you attribute your interest in nursing to?
I grew up as a member of the lower-middle class in New Haven, CT and was a first-generation college student. Despite our limited wealth, my mother always invested in my education, sending me to private grammar and high schools.
Why did you enter the field of nursing?
Everyone always told me what a great profession nursing was, so I decided to pursue this. Also, there were a lot of jobs available. I always loved the sciences; however, I couldn’t see myself in a lab all day. Nursing seemed to be a good use of my intellect but would engage me with people.
Did you enjoy nursing school?
I was a member of the last graduating class at Boston University and thus, had a pretty dismal experience. Most of the full-time faculty had left to pursue other positions and those of us who remained, may have missed some critical information. It wasn’t until I went on for my master’s degree at Yale that I began to meet wonderful nursing mentors like Dr. Terry Fulmer who was instrumental in my nursing career.
What was the greatest academic challenge you faced in nursing school?
I was never very good at the technical aspects of nursing – I got panicky when the IV pumps beeped, as I could rarely figure out how to fix them and it took me three tries to pass the urinary catheterization practicum exam.
What emotional challenges did you experience?
I remember the first patient I had in clinical had gangrene. When my instructor uncovered the affected toes, I wanted to vomit. Instead, I said to myself, “Meredith, you will not let this patient see your disgust – pull it together.” I continued the wound care with a smile on my face, chatting with the patient throughout the process.
I believe it’s important for patients to see us be strong – that’s one of the reasons they trust us. But, it’s equally important that we process our emotions later, in order to prevent the development of emotional distress and burnout. At Fairfield, we have an emotional support dog named Dakota who I snuggle with. She helps me to remember the good things in the world and put everything in perspective.
Why did you pick Adult and Gerontological Health and Illness as your area of specialization?
I love working with older adults. They have so much knowledge and wisdom to share and they were very forgiving of my lack of technical skills. I was in the right place at the right time; as the number of older adults is growing and there are many opportunities to work with this population.
Being the Dean at Fairfield University sounds like a very demanding position. Besides administering the nursing program, what other responsibilities do you have?
My position includes not only administering the nursing program but promoting it. Thus, I attend many events on campus and off, to discuss the great work of nurses and Fairfield’s wonderful faculty and students.
With such a busy schedule, how are you able to maintain a work-life balance?
Despite my busy work life, I make a lot of time for family and friends in the evenings and weekends. I’m fortunate that both my children attended Fairfield, so they visited me during the day. My parents are getting older, so I make a point to speak with them on the phone during the week and visit on weekends. Saturday nights are still date night with my husband.
Do you have any hobbies or participate in any recreational activities?
I love to read and write and a few years ago, decided to write a novel. I quickly realized that despite my many professional publications, I had no idea how to write a novel. I was accepted into Fairfield’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program and recently completed my first novel – House Wrecking. This was a labor of love that took me late into many nights and consumed most of my weekends. I am now thinking of my next novel.
What excites you most about your job?
I like that I get to do something different every day; whether it’s working with the University Administration, Faculty and students; or patients on my practice day.
Please describe a typical day in your work life…
I usually get up about 5:30 AM with thoughts about a particular problem that may need solving or finessing. Much of my work is about strategy and communication. My husband calls this time, my “morning thinking.” I appear to be doing nothing but am usually working out some complex situation in my head.
My meetings usually start at 8 or 9 AM and can be comprised of time with the University leadership team on strategies to best ensure student success. I also meet frequently with the faculty of our Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies on best ways to promote quality nursing education and faculty scholarship. It is the faculty of many universities, including Fairfield that are expanding the nursing science and profession and it is my job as Dean to ensure they have the resources to do this great work.
Lunch is likely to be with a potential donor, or alone at my desk preparing for the afternoon of meetings. In between meetings, I’m sending/returning emails and writing reports. In the evenings and weekends, I often have fundraising meetings, professional nursing meetings or school events to attend.
What characteristics are most vital to the success of a nurse?
Nursing is a difficult profession – we see people at their worst and yet need to be at our best. I think nurses need to be healthy and tough and there’s no room for egos.
What are some of the more important recent changes that have occurred in the world of nursing?
The nursing profession has progressed greatly over the years. With the increased knowledge of our profession, we are equal members of the healthcare team. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, nurses are poised and ready to lead healthcare change in most environments of care.
Is there an issue that you are passionate about? An issue that you would like to see changed?
The one thing that really bothers me is how physicians seem to have held a monopoly on the term “doctor.” I have a doctoral degree, as do most of my faculty colleagues. Most advanced practice nurses also now earning doctoral degrees. It would be great if we could begin to help our colleagues and patients identify the different roles of the healthcare team and address each of the team members accordingly. This will go a long way to leveling the playing field and promoting the leadership role of nurses on healthcare teams.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
I’ve been a nurse for almost 30 years and have done nothing other than nursing. In the end, if I can be considered a respectable member and strong advocate for the professionalism of nursing, I will feel accomplished.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Nursing is not a job, it’s a profession. We need highly committed men and women to be nurses. If you have the right stuff, nursing is an absolutely wonderful profession which I would highly recommend. I haven’t regretted a day of it.
Subscribe to EveryNurse
Useful tips, advice, and inspiration for nurses. Sent twice a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.