Skip to main content

Donna S. Havens, interim dean and a professor at the UNC School of Nursing, was recently selected to receive a Visionary Pioneer Award from the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Havens is one of 25 Maryland nursing alumni chosen from all 125 years of the school’s history to receive an inaugural award.

Havens said her graduate studies at the University of Maryland were a launching point for her distinguished career.

“At the time I was in school, there was evidence that the environment nurses practiced in affected important health outcomes for patients and the well-being of nurses,” she said. “I became very passionate about the quality of nursing practice environments, and I still am.”

That passion led her to create the Decisional Involvement Scale while she was in graduate school. The tool has since been used by many prominent organizations in the United States and around the world to measure nurses’ involvement in workplace policy and practice decisions as well as how much involvement nurses wanted to have. Havens has used the scale to demonstrate that involving nurses in workplace decisions is a key factor for improving outcomes for health organizations and their patients.

As a postdoctoral scholar, Havens refined her vision and developed a mantra that has guided her research, leadership and nursing practice for more than two decades.

“To help people do what they need to do to make good things happen, you have to put the right support structures and policies in place,” she said. “So ‘shaping systems to promote desired outcomes’ has been my mantra since the early 90s.”

Havens’ current efforts to shape health systems include two five-year initiatives to translate her research findings into evidence-based management practices. The most recent initiative, funded in July 2014 by a $1.5 million award from the Health Resources and Services Administration, focuses on implementing a teamwork strategy called interprofessional collaborative practice in the emergency departments of four rural North Carolina hospitals.

Her dedication to improving the quality of practice environments has resulted in numerous awards and appointments to multiple prestigious policy boards. She is currently serving as the vice-chair of the Executive Committee of the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Commission (she will become the chair in January) and is co-chairing the American Academy of Nursing Expert Panel on “Building Health Care System Excellence.” Among her other honors are fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing, the Pennsylvania Nightingale Award for Research Excellence and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) Nurse Researcher Award.

Havens will accept the Visionary Pioneer Award during a ceremony at the 125th anniversary celebration for the University of Maryland School of Nursing in April.

By Meagen Voss, School of Nursing

Published November 10, 2014