Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is pleased to bring on alumna Dr. Joan Slager, CNM, DNP, FACNM to spearhead FNU’s nursing education. Joan assumed her new position as dean of nursing in August 2018 after serving as interim dean beginning in March 2018. As dean, she is poised to address healthcare gaps by educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners amidst the transition to a new campus in Versailles, Ky.
Joan graduated from the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing in 1991 and completed her Master of Science in Nursing in 1993. She helped to establish Bronson Women’s Service in Kalamazoo, Mich., which is now the state’s largest midwifery service. She served over 20 years in full scope midwifery practice and returned to school to earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2008. She is now serving a second term as the treasurer on the American College of Nurse-Midwives Board of Directors.
Frontier spoke with Joan about her passion for the Frontier mission, nurse-midwifery practice, and the challenges she will face as FNU continues to grow.
Where did your passion for caring for women and families originate?
“In a barn! I would sit for hours waiting for our cows to birth. Later as a nursing student, I saw a nurse care for a family during birth and thought that is how all women and families should be cared for. Later as a NICU nurse, I enjoyed attending the high-risk deliveries because I was so intrigued by labor and birth, so I transitioned to Labor & Delivery nursing and eventually midwifery.”
Learn more about Joan’s passion for women and families in this video.
Can you share your story of how and why you became a certified nurse-midwife?
“I worked with Southwest Michigan’s first Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) and liked the partnership with this CNM in caring for women as a nurse, but also liked the care difference I observed. That is the kind of care I felt all women deserved, so I decided to pursue midwifery.”
Learn more about Joan’s calling to nurse-midwifery in this video.
We know you are a graduate of the first CNEP class at FNU. How does it feel to come back to the university you graduated from and assume the title dean of nursing?
“After working 25 years as a clinician, one would think a “new” career would be very anxiety provoking, but I have been involved in FNU as a midwife from the beginning – student, faculty, preceptor. It was like coming “home.” I did not anticipate becoming the dean, but leadership skills are the same no matter the job and with FNU’s strong team of associate deans and program directors, I felt as a team we would be successful.”
Learn more about Joan’s return to Frontier in this video.
What has been your career path so far and how did it lead you to joining the faculty at Frontier and to your current role as dean of nursing?
“In addition to the obvious career of full scope midwifery, I have spent a great deal of time teaching. I have been involved with Frontier since I was a student, including precepting nearly 100 FNU students as well as teaching courses in the midwifery program. Working collaboratively at a very large practice with multidisciplinary teams, along with gaining experience in business development and finance, were great preparation for this administrative role as a member of FNU’s leadership team. I felt those leadership skills could be used to successfully transition from clinical practice into working with an institution that had been a part of my life for a very long time.”
Learn more about Joan’s journey to Dean in this video.
How have you carried out the mission and vision that Mary Breckinridge set forth through your career thus far?
“By building a practice that has stayed true to midwifery core values and the midwifery model and helping others to do the same. Also, the entrepreneurial aspects of developing places where midwives can work to their fullest capacity and articulating the value of midwifery to protect practices has been a personal commitment. I think Mary Breckinridge would be proud to know her vision has stayed the same and we’ve stayed true to our mission and philosophy.”
Learn more about how Joan plans to carry out Mary Breckinridge’s mission for Frontier in this video.
What are you most excited about in your new role as dean of nursing and/or what goals do you have?
“The opportunity to work with an organization with thoughts and beliefs that match my own. I like developing processes, working to build teams and creating synergy to streamline processes. The move to the new campus and developing a business model that will allow for more growth as our capacity increases.”
Learn about Joan’s planned strategies as Dean in this video.
What are the biggest challenges that you will face in your new role?
“I look at challenges as opportunities. I like change. I think the challenge confronting all of FNU at this time is executing a seamless transition to the Versailles campus. I want to preserve what students value about FNU’s history and traditions and translate that to meaningful on-site experiences in Versailles.”
Learn more about the challenges Joan anticipates in her new role in this video.
How do you see technology and innovation having an impact on educating the next generation of nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners?
“I think technology can expand our exposure to knowledge and experiences. I’m very excited about the advancement in simulations and virtual learning, but I never want to see us lose touch with developing our people skills.”
Learn more about how Joan will handle technology and innovation in nursing education in this video.
What is a fun fact about you?
“My dad used to race thoroughbred horses and I grew up on a horse when most kids had bikes, so Kentucky horse country is a very cool place for me to work.”
Learn more about Joan in this video.
What do you do for fun when you are not busy being the dean?
“The 3 Gs – grandchildren, gardening and golf. My Achilles heel is my grandchildren. I’m absolutely crazy about all of them.”
Learn more about Joan’s life outside of Frontier in this video.
We wish you luck as you settle into your new role, Joan! We are glad to have another alumna making a difference at FNU!