Feature Story

Shaping the Future of Healthcare

By Mount Mary University

Posted on November 27, 2023

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A look inside Mount Mary’s new School of Nursing

Dr. Julie Maher compares the School of Nursing at Mount Mary University to a rare gem being polished and shaped. As dean of the recently launched program, she sees a bright future that gleams with promise and will be highly sought after.  

Maher envisions the nursing program quickly growing into an increasingly valuable community resource, noting the unique features of this new and quickly expanding program. But what exactly sets the Mount Mary School of Nursing apart? To Maher, the answer is twofold: first, the experience, passion and creativity of faculty. Second, the multifaceted backgrounds of students. It’s this unique combination of factors that she points to as having a distinct advantage over similar area programs.   

“Our strength is in the diversity of our students.”

Dr. Julie Maher, Dean of School of Nursing

“Our strength is in the diversity of our students,” says Maher. “The ability to learn from one another’s cultures and backgrounds and apply this to their learning in the classroom – and in the field – ultimately leads to better outcomes, both for students and for their future patients.” 

Maher acknowledges a need to incorporate a patient’s cultural and personal background into health care action plans. She places this connection with people at the center of her mission as an educator. 

“As the demands on medical professionals increase, there’s a tendency to see patients as just their symptoms – which ultimately leads to dehumanizing them,” she says. “Considering someone’s belief system and how their background impacts their views makes them feel seen and heard, and this leads to better care outcomes.”  

A practicing nurse who continues to work in her field even as she steps into her new leadership role, Maher knows the challenges of the healthcare environment intimately. While specializing in women’s health for over three decades, she has witnessed burnout and staffing shortages, seeing firsthand the impacts on hospital staff and patients alike. She brings this experience and wisdom to her students, preparing them to face these challenges and positioning them for long-term success. Maher strives to shape a generation of healthcare providers empowered to use their voices for advocacy, learning to band together to create better work environments for all.  

“Nurses are among the most trusted professionals. So many people rely on us. When job satisfaction isn’t there, safety and quality become a problem for everyone in the system,” she says. “We’re educating students to build teams with other nurses and work together to effect change.” 

State-of-the-art technology sharpens competitive advantage

Another distinct advantage for Mount Mary’s Nursing Program is access to high-tech facilities. Maher points to the Health Sciences Simulation Lab, where classes can monitor the vital signs of manikins, replicating real-world hospital situations they may encounter. Student nurses can practice skills using Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) learning management systems that allow students to run virtual simulations of real-life scenarios. This in turn allows them to play out situations that mirror real life – and learn how to respond accordingly. Mount Mary Health Sciences is also home to a new Anatomage table, a tool allowing students to explore complex systems within the human body (see full story on page 8). 

“Few schools have this type of equipment in their hands. We’re very blessed,” she reflects. 

Maher shares her goal of continuing to build access to technological tools for learning. Her long-term plans include acquiring a manikin to replicate the birthing process and defibrillator equipment that mimics a variety of heart rhythms and irregularities.  

The future of healthcare education at Mount Mary

Maher sees the new School of Nursing as robust, building clinical affiliation agreements with Advocate Aurora Healthcare, Ascension, Froedtert Hospital, Rogers Behavioral Health and Milwaukee Catholic Home. Her goal is to build nursing at Mount Mary into a nationally accredited program.  

Additionally, Maher plans to develop relationships with several local K-12 schools, encouraging students to consider a career in nursing from an early stage.  

“If we inspire even one student, we accomplish that goal,” she says.  

Maher also shares her vision of incorporating trauma informed care in the short term, and hopes to bring more awareness to the vital issue of mental health. She sees this as addressing a pressing need in the field of healthcare, which in turn will make Mount Mary nurses more in-demand. 

Above all, Julie Maher is excited for the momentum as the new School of Nursing continues to grow. As the first students from the university’s program graduate in May 2024 and enter the healthcare field, it’s an equally exciting time for their teachers. Maher hopes that they will always find connections and support in the community who helped shape them as professionals. 

“We want them to know there will always be a place for them here at Mount Mary.”