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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI College of Nursing honors Boston College dean

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Wakefield native honored as alumna of year

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 9, 2005 -- University of Rhode Island nursing students heard a story recently about a little girl from a dead-end street across from the Larchwood Inn in Wakefield who grew up to become dean of nursing at Boston College and a national leader in nursing research.

They learned at the URI College of Nursing’s 10th Annual Alumni Recognition Day that the story of Barbara Hazard Munro, dean and professor of the William F. Connell School of Nursing at BC since 1991, could be their story too.

Honored earlier this month as URI’s top alumna for 2005, Munro earned her bachelor’s degree in 1961 after completing what was then a five-year program, and her master’s degree in 1974, both from the University’s College of Nursing.

Munro told the faculty, staff and students during the program that the award humbled her. “Actually, this College of Nursing deserves the award, as this is where I learned to be a nurse, where I received my master’s degree, and where I had my first teaching job in nursing. So, whatever I have accomplished, it is because of the excellent preparation I received right here.

“I arrived here in the fall of 1956, after graduating from South Kingstown High School,” Munro continued. “I was a townie and several other townies are here to support me. We were commuters, and earned our way by working summers and weekends.”

Ruth Waldman, former associate dean of the nursing college, and Munro were classmates as master’s degree candidates at URI. “There was no question that she was the leader of the group from the beginning. She doesn’t waste time.

“As an educator, she always had a sense of what is important, and before many others, she realized how important continuing education was for nurses,” Waldman said.

Although now a fixture at Boston College, Munro said she is proud to be “Rhode Island Born and Rhode Island Bred, although not quite ready to be Rhode Island Dead.”

A former member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University and URI, she earned her doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. “If you want to become a bonafide researcher and academician, you need the Ph.D.,” Munro said.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at URI, she became a psychiatric nurse at the Leech Farm Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh. She then worked at a state hospital in Connecticut and returned to URI for her master’s in nursing while raising her three children. She said it was Barbara Tate, URI nursing dean emerita, who taught her research class and who emphasized that nursing research should drive clinical practice.

“I liked detective stories and figuring out things, so research was a great fit for me,” Munro said. “There are many, many examples in medicine and nursing of things we have done because they seemed to work, but when studied scientifically, we found them to be useless or worse.”

In her faculty positions and as dean she pushes nursing students to question “usual practices” and to examine them through scientific study.

Munro and her students have examined such issues as the ability of patients to read and understand printed instructions given to them in the primary care setting, bed positioning for post-cardiac angioplasty patients, use of advanced practice nurses in place of physicians as a way to improve patient outcomes and reduce health care costs, and interactive coaching for promoting healthy responsiveness between depressed mothers and infants.

For her work, she has been presented the Second Annual Research Award from the Eastern Nursing Research Society, the Annie Goodrich Award for Teaching at Yale University, the Connecticut Nurses’ Association Virginia A. Henderson Award for Outstanding Contributions to Nursing Research, and the URI Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Research.

An associate editor of the journal Clinical Nurse Specialist since its inception in 1987, she sits on the board of the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists.

She concluded her talk saying that being a nursing dean was not in her plans, but that nursing students and faculty have to be open to a variety of possibilities.

Munro said BC’s Father Michael Himes explained to her what he believed are the key elements of a vocation—it brings joy, the person has to be good at it and there is a need for it.

“The profession of nursing has brought me joy, from my work as a psychiatric nurse in a variety of settings to teaching undergraduate and graduate students. My education at URI helped me to be good at my profession and there is certainly a need for nurses.”


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(Barbara Hazard Munro, right, dean and professor of the William F. Connell School of Nursing at BC since 1991, displays a plaque presented to her by URI Associate Nursing Dean Paula Viau during the URI College of Nursing’s 10th Annual Alumni Recognition Day. Munro earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from URI. URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno Photography.