Mary Burman Honored

WNA Lifetime Achievement Award

woman with wavy greying short hair, engaging eyes and smile

Mary Burman, Dean of the University of Wyoming Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, received the Wyoming Nurses Association (WNA) Lifetime Achievement Award at the September 2014 Wyoming Nursing Summit and Convention in Rock Springs.

Award criteria

The WNA award is given annually to one who has enjoyed a long career as a nurse in Wyoming, has shown commitment and dedication to the profession of nursing, has been an innovator and developer of programs and has served on boards and committees to advance the practice of nursing and health care in Wyoming. The award criteria also requires individuals who provide support through mentoring and role modeling for other nurses and who exemplifies the role of a nurse by exhibiting caring and professionalism.

Kudos from colleagues

In attendance at the award presentation in Rock Springs was Susan Steiner, associate dean of the UW School of Nursing. Steiner commented on the award presentation, which included the reading of Burman’s nomination letter: "The letter outlining Mary's accomplishments and contributions to nursing was a joy to listen to. We all know how much Mary has done for the school and nursing, but it is heartwarming to hear her honored at the state level by our colleagues. A special thanks to Mary Behrens [from Casper] for the nomination and supporting letter."

Influences on Burman’s career

Behrens’ letter is lengthy in its attempt to do justice to Burman’s illustrious career, packed with achievements since 1980. According to Behrens, Burman has been internally guided by the philosophy of Lillian Wald, founder of Public Health Nursing, and by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies’ report on The Future of Nursing, which highlights subjects such as the need for nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and to achieve higher levels of education and training through seamless progression.

In light of the above, Burman sought and secured "PIN" grants ("PIN" stands for "Partners Investing in Nursing"). The grants are generated from the Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship (RWJF), a charitable organization devoted to health care issues. [As a side note, Burman herself was honored as a Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Fellowship Executive Fellows Program in 2007.] “The PIN grants have helped nurses develop leadership skills so nurses can be more influential in our state’s health care system,” says Behrens. The Wyoming PIN project, also known as "ReNEW" - Revolutionizing Nursing Education in Wyoming, is working to create a shared nursing curriculum at academic institutions across the state to make it easier for nurses prepared at the associates-degree level to earn baccalaureate and higher degrees.

“Our goal is to revolutionize nursing education,” Burman said. "As you look at the future of nursing, we need a different type of nurse clinician.” Streamlining education requirements is especially helpful in a state like Wyoming, which is home to only one four-year school of nursing. When the process is complete through the ReNEW project, nurses at one of the state’s six community colleges will have an easier time earning their baccalaureate degree [from] the University of Wyoming, which will help them build the skills they need in order to care for an increasing and increasingly complex population of patients.  “She has never taken her eye off the ultimate goal of improving the health for all the citizens of Wyoming,” says Behrens. Implementation of the ReNEW curriculum is scheduled for 2016.

Burman’s CV – full of honors, projects and participation

Since Burman’s CV [curriculum vita] is 22 pages long, Behrens attempted to summarize what she found there, listing some awards, which included the Wyoming Nurses Association Leadership in Nursing Award; the honor of becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (there are only three FAANPs in the State of Wyoming, according to Behrens); the Daniel S. Klein Spirit of Volunteerism Award from Laramie’s Downtown Clinic; and the “Trailblazer” award from the Wyoming Women’s Foundation.

Continuing her review of Burman’s CV, Behrens noted that Burman wrote or assisted in 36 different grants and funding projects, 34 refereed journals, six refereed book and monograph chapters, six technical reports, 25 publications, 35 national and international abstracts, and 35 local and regional presentations.

"Burman is extremely active in health organizations," noted Behrens. "Her leadership with the Wyoming Center for Nursing and Health Care Partnerships demonstrates her commitment to the profession of nursing as well as her ability to bring together stakeholders and health care partners to work on a common goal. In addition, she has been active in many professional nursing organizations." Behrens listed eight of them, each of which benefited from Burman's service in a wide variety of positions, from delegate, secretary and treasurer to government affairs, global advancement, and international special interest group committees.

"Dr. Burman has also found time to work with numerous and varied community service organizations," says Behrens, "including Wyoming Woman’s Foundation Advisory Board and United Way of Albany County. True to her public health roots, she was a founder of the Laramie Downtown Clinic. In addition she served as president and vice president on the board and on the Albany County Public Health Advisory Committee."

In closing, Behrens wrote, "Dr. Burman has been a positive force in many nurses’ lives. She has exhibited leadership and inspiration to other nurses and to her patients, and she has the respect of her peers, achieving a pinnacle in her career with great personal integrity."

In summary from the UW School of Nursing’s namesake, Fay W. Whitney, PhD, RN, FAAN:

“It is a credit to the school to have you [Mary Burman] as our leader. But in this instance, WNA has honored someone who has consistently, quietly and successfully made so many contributions to this state that it is easy to be caught forgetting how many! - and how creatively and how persistently you move through your day, pushing the needs and the progress of nursing as a profession and the work done by nurses as important.You are a model for others to follow. I, for one, am proud to call you a colleague, and very proud of WNA to have chosen you this year for such a prestigious award. Fantastic!”

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