TU’s School of Nursing welcomes new director

Change is afoot at The University of Tulsa’s School of Nursing. Not only is Oklahoma’s first and only nurse anesthesia program launching later this year, but the entire school recently welcomed the arrival of a new director: Bill Buron.

Previously the director of nursing at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, Buron began his nursing career in 1995 when he received his diploma in nursing from Burge School of Nursing in Springfield, Missouri. Two years later, following the completion of his bachelor of science in nursing, Buron began teaching at Burge School. He continued to instruct future nurses for the next 23 years. Along the way, Buron earned a master of science in nursing in 1999 from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and a doctorate in nursing in 2009 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Buron later served as assistant dean for nursing on the Northwest Regional Campus (UAMS-NW) for many years.

In addition to studying for his advanced degrees and providing administrative direction at UAMS-NW and Benedictine, Buron always remained engaged with nursing practice on a part-time basis, beginning as a staff nurse in the medical-surgical setting. Following the completion of his MSN degree, Buron began working as a nurse practitioner in urgent care. As his research evolved to address the study of older adults and dementia, Buron’s own nursing practice came to focus on geriatrics and geropsychiatry.

In this Q&A conversation, Buron shares his thoughts about the future of nursing in the United States as well as his impressions of the TU School of Nursing and hopes for its future. We also get a glimpse of who Buron is when he’s not wearing a white coat.

What impresses you most about TU’s School of Nursing – enough so that you wanted to become its new director?

Although I have been a member of the TU team for only three weeks, I am already very impressed with the university’s commitment to nursing education. Our nursing program provides a strong foundation with its BSN program and offers several advanced practice options for graduate students. I have also noticed a team-focused, student-centered atmosphere that is very supportive of progressive learning.

TU is well-positioned to meet future challenges in nursing education. Compared to the situation at many other colleges and universities, the nurse educators at TU are well educated and highly skilled. Through a unique and cutting-edge, integrated and concept-based curriculum approach, faculty are teaching in their identified personal areas of expertise. By contrast, in many other nursing programs, individual faculty members are assigned to teach entire courses that often include topics in which they may have very limited (if any) expertise.

University of Tulsa School of Nursing Director Bill BuronI am also impressed with TU’s commitment to skills and simulation training. Our cutting-edge Clinical Simulation Center is second to none and staffed by highly skilled nursing faculty. This creates an outstanding opportunity for learning where it’s okay to make mistakes in a controlled setting and take the time to learn from them.

I love the fact that our School of Nursing is housed in the Oxley College of Health Sciences. In this environment, nursing students and nurse educators may easily collaborate with other health care-focused disciplines to enhance the learning environment through interprofessional education and collaboration.

What are some of the major issues facing the future of nursing in our country?

Our country is experiencing a significant shortage of registered nurses (RNs). It is estimated that there will be a 10% to 15% job growth over the next 10 to 15 years. That means up to 1,000 new nurses per state, per year, will be needed to meet the growing demand.

There is also an expanding need for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Therefore, many RNs are continuing their education and taking on new advanced practice roles (e.g., nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists). Unfortunately, with the ongoing nursing shortage at all levels, institutions of higher education across the country are denying admission to a significant number of qualified nursing applicants, largely due to a shortage of nurse educators.

I see a growing nurse faculty shortage as one of the greatest threats to the future of nursing and health care throughout the country. The average age of a nurse educator is approximately 60. A massive number of nurse educators are among the aging baby boomer population and they will begin retiring within the next several years. While the demand for nurses continues to rise, the number of nurse educators continues to decline.

To meet this impending crisis in nursing education and health care, nursing program administrators must work collaboratively with institutions of higher education and communities to secure funding for endowed professorships and chairs and tenure-track positions. We must support our current faculty and all work together to identify ways to make nurse educator tracks more attractive to younger nurses. In addition, out of concern for the future of nursing and health care, all nurse educators should embrace, encourage, support and mentor nurses who are interested in teaching.

Nurse educators will be continually challenged by increasingly complex health care environments to produce highly skilled and competent nurses. Institutions of higher education must meet these challenges through ongoing investment in well-educated and highly skilled nurse educators, more dynamic simulation training and interprofessional education.

In addition, I believe health care systems in the United States will demand a growing emphasis on inter-professional education and clinical collaboration from all health care educational programs. We need this in order to improve communication and a team-based, coordinated and economical approach to care. If we do it right, inter-professional collaboration can result in better outcomes and experiences for patients – and Oxley College of Health Sciences is positioned well to be a leader in collaborative education efforts.

Over the next 6 months, I want to meet with our students, faculty, friends of the nursing program and the university’s administration so that I can continue to learn everything I can about the School of Nursing’s programs, the health sciences college, TU and the wider community. When I look ahead 12 months, I see my role as supporting nursing faculty members in their teaching and research. I also want to work collaboratively with them to seek out and create new opportunities to meet our region, state and country’s growing demand for high-quality undergraduate and graduate nursing education.

I am pleased to join TU at such an exciting time for nursing education. I look forward to working closely with faculty, staff and administration to build on the solid foundation of the TU nursing programs as we work with focus and passion to positively impact the future of nursing in the years ahead!

And who is Bill Buron when he isn’t busy planning the future of TU’s School of Nursing? What would you like to share with your new colleagues and community?

Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, I have lived in the Midwest for most of my life. In 2001, my wife, Jennifer, and I moved to Northwest Arkansas. We lived and worked there for the next 16 years, developing our careers and family. Jennifer is a physical therapist and works with adults and children who have physical and developmental challenges. We have two kids, Becka (16) and Will (15), and one black lab mix. Together, we enjoy church activities, all things basketball and outdoor activities – especially at the lake.

Actually, my family has always enjoyed a special connection with Tulsa. In fact, Jennifer is a native of Tulsa. We have frequently visited her parents here throughout most of our lives. We love the city’s family-centered, cultural vibe. Tulsa is a very unique community – everyone is super-friendly, welcoming, respectful and kind.