Sarah Bakewell Sachs

Susan Bakewell Sachs became dean of Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Nursing in 2013. She discusses the calling's appeal and evolution.

You’re a nurse practitioner, and once specialized in preterm infant care. What brought you to the profession?

The difference I could make in individual lives. What I’ve learned is that at whatever point of care a patient enters the medical system, they’re in contact with a nurse. That nurse needs to be able to make a personal connection.

How has nursing changed during your career?

The basic paradigm hasn’t changed, but technology gives us so much more we can know about patients. I’ve also seen us move from a more siloed approach to a real emphasis on collaboration across the spectrum of care. People entering nursing now will have seven to 10 distinct careers in their working life. For advanced-practice nurses, the scope of practice has expanded tremendously.

Our Portland Monthly list honors NPs. Meanwhile, how has the role of registered nurses evolved?

There’s a greater recognition that RNs practice independently in many situations. RNs don’t need a prescription to initiate CPR, assess a patient’s condition, or engage in patient teaching to promote self-care and self-sufficiency.

We’ve heard of a looming nursing shortage. Is that real?

Some predictions point to a national shortage, but there’s a study that suggests there will be an overabundance of nurses. Analysis does suggest that demand could outstrip supply in our area. With five campuses across Oregon, we’re very focused on the workforce needs of the state. We don’t want to grow just to grow.

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