Brenda Marshall, EdD, MSN, APN
2012 Award for Excellence in Education

At the beginning of her book Becoming You, which has been used on college campuses to teach behavior change, Dr. Brenda Marshall, EdD, MSN, APN shares an anecdote about her daughter: “When my daughter was asked whether she would be willing to repeat a grade to get into the high school of her choice, she replied that she would be okay with that. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘my mom is pretty old and she’s still going to school. In our house we just keep learning until we get it!’”

Part of what makes Marshall an exceptional nursing educator is her willingness to be an eternal student. She augments her knowledge through projects and research and shares that learning process with her students. In 2006 she received funding for a program that aimed to reduce college freshmen’s use of alcohol and drugs. Her program, “Social Norms Project,” recruited undergraduate researchers to participate, encouraging collaboration with students in research on college campuses.

An email she recently received from one of her students reads: “I don't believe that words could truly capture the impact and significance of how much the Social Norms Project has had on my outlook on life. You've been a tremendous mentor to a young college student like myself who had some doubts about where she may have belonged in the world; however, at the completion of that project she knew her footsteps belonged in the path of Nursing.”

Marshall is currently an associate professor at William Paterson University of New Jersey, where she teaches psychiatric mental health nursing to undergraduate nursing students, research methods and biostatistics to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) candidates, and is the coordinator of the DNP program.  In addition to teaching, she has a private practice in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey which provides psychotherapy for individuals, couples and families.  

On how she keeps students excited and interested she says, “I am a follower of the pedagogy of deep learning, where students are engaged on multiple levels in learning a topic.” Marshall further elaborates that deep learning “requires active participation on the part of the student in the process of learning and the added necessity of reflection on the learning experience.” To facilitate this process she uses a variety of forms of media, such as YouTube, movies, simulation, and audience response technology. “Students participate in the activities in class, reflect on them after class and write about the affect of the activity on their perceptions,” she explains.

Below, she answers a couple of questions about her career as an educator and nurse:     

Why PMH nursing education? 
I have been a nurse for a long time, with experience in ICU, HIV/AIDS, GI, Orthopaedics and Pain Management.  One thing that was needed by all my patients, regardless of which unit I took care of them in, was a capacity to have the bedside nurse listen, empathize and reserve personal judgment.  Everyone who is in need of nursing care needs to be treated with kindness and respect in addition to the intelligence required to render quality professional nursing care… I believe that new nurses…, as well as those who are seasoned and coming back for more academic preparation, benefit from knowing the specific strategies and skills that are essential to PMH nursing in dealing with their patients, their families and their own lives.

What is one point that stands out for you in your career?
I was very active in the 1980's educating nurses about HIV/AIDS.  I was fortunate enough to work with Mathilde Krimm, researching and responding to inquiries about HIV/AIDS. I started a group called Nurses Network on AID (NNOA) which, through a grant from ConvaTEC, became the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC), which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.  It was working with families affected by HIV that I began to understand the need for nurses engaging in research and education. 

What are three things that you would like to tell all psychiatric mental health nursing students? 
1) Psychiatric nursing skills will make you a better nurse, no matter what field of nursing you go into. 
2) Psychiatric nursing, especially as a nurse practitioner, is an incredibly rewarding professional field. 
3) Be as kind and considerate to yourself as you are to others.