Kirsten A. Hickerson, DNP, RN, CEN
Helping new pediatric nurses bridge the gap between what they learn in nursing school and what employers expect of them is a key focus for Kirsten A. Hickerson.
By working closely with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Dr. Hickerson helps ensure that undergraduate nursing students have meaningful clinical experiences at CHOP. She connects students with clinical faculty and experienced nurses who can help them build clinical skills and competencies and gain practical knowledge of a nurse’s role in a children’s hospital.
A Successful Transition from Nursing School to First Job
Dr. Hickerson also works with leaders at CHOP to understand the hospital’s expectations for pediatric nurses in their first job after graduation. She then re-designs Pediatric Nursing, a required junior year course that she helped develop, to enable students to meet those expectations.
For example, when issues with Ebola became an urgent health crisis, CHOP developed and implemented isolation and emergency response teams. Dr. Hickerson added isolation and emergency response, including CHOP’s new policies for handling and transporting patients, to the curriculum. She also took students on a tour of CHOP’s temporary facility for Ebola patients. Through course evaluations and quantitative research with alumni, Dr. Hickerson continually learns about how best to prepare nursing students for success as a student and in their first job.
“I am fully committed to the success of our undergraduate students. I help prepare them to transition from the role of student to the role of professional nurse.”
- DNP, Johns Hopkins University, 2015
- MS, University of Virginia, 1988
- BSN, University of Rochester, 1987
Most other nursing schools don’t have a separate course for undergraduates in Pediatric Nursing. Along with providing students with clinical experiences at CHOP, students learn pediatric clinical care in both the classroom and in the simulation learning lab. Working in small groups, students provide care to simulated pediatric patients in a robust and unique setting.
Building critical thinking skills is a key part of Pediatric Nursing. Dr. Hickerson facilities this through the use of case studies, videos, and exams that test critical thinking skills. The exams are designed to help prepare students for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s exam for registered nurses.
Dr. Hickerson brings her own clinical experience, as a nurse at Haverford College’s nurse-run health center and a substitute nurse for the Haverford School District, into the classroom. Her clinical work at Haverford College has also helped her understand other facets of college life, particularly the stresses her students face, and she has become a more patient, supportive, and holistic educator.
A Relevant and Evolving Curriculum
As vice chair of the Department of Family and Community Health and a member of Penn Nursing’s curriculum committee, Dr. Hickerson helps ensure that the curriculum meets educational standards defined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly called the Institute of Medicine), and the State Boards of Nursing, and that faculty provide challenging and unique content.
Selected Career Highlights
- Member, Sigma Theta Tau International
- Member, DNP Task Force, Penn Nursing
- Ambassador, Student Mental Health, University of Pennsylvania