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Release Date: 09/02/2015

Angelita Hensman, MS, RNC-NIC, of Providence, is among 46 nurses from around the country this year to receive the Future of Nursing Scholars Program Award to support her doctorate study at the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) College of Nursing. The Future of Nursing Scholars program began last year with an inaugural cohort of 16 scholars. This new cohort brings the number of nurses it is supporting to 62.

Hensman’s scholarship is funded by a Rhode Island Foundation grant totaling $75,000 and a $50,000 scholarship from URI. The university selected her for the nursing scholars program.

Hensman began her career as a staff nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England Hospital, after receiving her bachelor of science degree in nursing from URI in 1985. She went on to become a research nurse and since 1991, has been the research coordinator for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Neonatal Research Network at Women & Infants. She is also a research manager in the Pediatrics Department at the hospital, a role she has had since 2004, managing and coordinating all Neonatal Research Network trials - more than 60 studies to date - at Women & Infants.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive this scholarship,” said Hensman. “I have wanted to go back to school for a long time. When I graduated from nursing school we were encouraged to get practice experience before we began graduate studies. However, when you are working and raising a family, it is more difficult to stop working to attend school full time. I am very excited and humbled by this award, and I look forward to giving back to nursing and Rhode Island. I see teaching, research and scholarship as an integral part of my role in the future as a PhD prepared nurse.”

Fewer than one percent of the nation’s three million nurses have PhDs in nursing or a related field. In addition, the average age at which nurses get their doctorates in the United States is 46, 13 years older than those in other fields. Today, graduates are encouraged to continue their higher education sooner, and many bachelor of science programs and nursing doctoral programs allow for a seamless transition. This scholarship through the Rhode Island Foundation and URI will enable Hensman to reduce her workload at Women & Infants so she can pursue her doctorate on a full-time basis and complete it in three years, which is one of the primary goals of the nursing scholars program.

“Nurses will play a key role in the transformation of Rhode Island’s health care system,” said Yvette Mendez, the Rhode Island Foundation’s grant programs officer in the health sector. “Investing in the education of nursing leaders ensures there will be a steady supply of home-grown professionals to serve the next generation of Rhode Islanders.”

“The Future of Nursing Scholars represents some of the best and brightest minds in nursing today,” said Julie Fairman, the program’s co-director. “They will be at the leading edge of health care research and nursing education.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the program to meet the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine’s landmark Future of Nursing Report to double the number of nurses with doctoral degrees. The program’s goal is to support more nurse leaders, promote nurse-led science and discovery, and put more educators in place to prepare the next generation of nurses.

Mary Sullivan, interim dean of URI’s College of Nursing, said nursing faculty must be prepared with knowledge and skills in cutting edge science, research techniques and education. “With the support of the Rhode Island Foundation, two Rhode Island nurses will be well prepared as transformational leaders and bring science-based changes to health care through the RWJF Future of Nursing Scholars program,” Sullivan said. “We are very pleased to welcome Angelita as our newest RWJF scholar.”

In addition to the foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Inc., Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System and the Rhode Island Foundation are supporting nursing scholar grants to schools of nursing this year.

Angelleen Peters-Lewis, RN, PhD, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Women & Infants Hospital, said, “In the new health care environment, the interprofessional team will need to design and test interventions aimed at promoting a culture of health. Nurses play an essential leadership role in the redesign of health care. We are thrilled that the Future of Nursing Scholars program will prepare Angelita with the skills necessary to be a leader in health care as well as generate new knowledge for clinical practice.”

Hensman has also worked as adjunct faculty at Rhode Island College and Brown University. She has been a part of research teams that examined a variety of conditions in very low birth weight infants in the NICU at the hospital, including a study conducted by URI researchers on the benefits of delayed umbilical cord clamping for pre-term infants.

From her earliest days at the Women & Infants NICU, Hensman was sought out for research projects, particularly by Dr. William Oh, the original principal investigator of the Neonatal Research Network grant at Women & Infants. Hensman, who earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Georgetown University, enjoys research.

“Thanks to the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Neonatal Research Network, I have been involved in cutting edge neonatal research,” Hensman said.

Her doctoral studies will focus on patient safety in the NICU, and she will be working with URI nursing professor Debra Erickson-Owens, CNM, PhD, who is a co-principal investigator on a federal grant looking into the benefits of delayed cord clamping for full-term infants.

“The leadership training and mentoring provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the work I have done on so many research projects with many accomplished researchers has been great preparation for me, and I am eager to get started.”

About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 12th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.
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