Dean, Louise Herrington School of Nursing, Baylor University
Although she no longer treats the tiny babies she fell in love with as a neonatal nurse practitioner, the dean of Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing still perceives everything she does as nursing. That's because she can do the math. She multiplies the seven or eight infants she used to see each day times 64 - the number of graduates that the nursing school produced last semester. That tells her approximately how many patients those new nurses can see in a day.
"I made a difference. They will make a difference," says Judy Lott, dean since 2002.
Her number crunching does not stop there. Louise Herrington School of Nursing produces more graduates than any other private school in Texas, and as many as most of the state schools, she says. "We have a low dropout rate once the students get to the higher levels (juniors and seniors)." The school succeeds because its students are committed to nursing and because the faculty cares about students and their successes, she says.
Knowing that her students can make a difference is important to Lott, who predicts a global shortage of nurses if trends are not reversed, and who proclaims the graduates of Louise Herrington are "absolutely" the best because of their view of nursing as a calling integrated with their faith. Because of their commitment and level of training, the school's graduates are highly regarded and recruited, she says. Each has at least one job offer by graduation.
More numbers: Lott predicts the world will have one million fewer nurses than it needs by 2020 unless hospitals and nursing schools can forge an alliance to reverse the trend. Texas feels the pinch now, and California is next, she says.
She sees several causes. First, women, who continue to dominate nursing school enrollments, have more professional choices now than they did in previous decades, when nursing was one of only two or three acceptable options for college-educated women. The population is aging and demanding more health care, and hospitals are recruiting nursing educators for clinical positions, which reduces the numbers of nursing faculty. Finally, both hospital nurses and nursing school faculty are nearing retirement age. The average age of a hospital nurse is 45, Lott says, and the average age of nursing school faculty is 56 or 57.
This is all happening at a time when hospital cost containment measures mean that patients arrive sicker than they used to and leave more quickly. Treating seriously ill people and getting them well enough to leave the hospital places a heavy demand on a hospital's nursing staff, she notes, but "good nursing care can make all the difference in the world" in how the patient fares.
Lott's view of nursing comes from years of personal practice. She earned a bachelor's of science in nursing from Valdosta State University (Georgia), a master's from Troy State (Montgomery, Ala.) and a doctorate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has worked on the faculty at Albany State College, University of Florida and University of Cincinnati, and arrived at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in 2001 to teach in the neonatal graduate program.
She's also walked the halls of neonatal nursing settings. Her specialty is neonatal health care, and a premature baby named Jeremy, who was born at 27 or 28 weeks of gestation instead of the normal 38 to 40 weeks, changed her view of how these youngest members of society should be treated. "He was the first baby I fell in love with," Lott says. "He lived for several months but eventually succumbed to complications from prematurity." Premature babies have a much improved survival rate now, she says.
Treating him led Lott to research non-
invasive ways of caring for premature babies, which led her to study the skin, the body's biggest organ, and blood flow in general, which shows through the skin. Her desire to fill a gap in nursing education led her to author and edit two textbooks.
She is most proud of being a Fellow of the American College of Nursing, which recognizes nursing excellence, and notes that faculty members Charles Kemp and Frances Strodtbeck are also Fellows. "It's outstanding to have three," she says.
As Louise Herrington School of Nursing approaches its 100th anniversary in 2009, Lott hopes to generate financial support to meet three major needs. The first is a patient simulation laboratory, which teaches students to react in "real time" to crises by using lifelike models that can be programmed to have a heart attack, stroke or other medical condition. Baylor's school of nursing lags behind a number of other nursing programs in the Dallas area that have such a lab.
Lott also hopes for an endowed professorship as well as more student scholarships.
Her vision for the nursing school and her view of nursing as a calling led the Baylor Women's Council of Dallas to choose Lott as its 2006 Woman of Distinction, says Ellen Byrd, who chaired the committee making the selection. "She has a vision for so many things," Byrd says. "She has dedication in what she has done for the school."
Byrd (BS '64) says Lott was surprised when she discovered she would be honored. Lott's reaction: "Are you sure they meant me?"
She used the opportunity of making a speech at the women's council luncheon in her honor to emphasize the need for more nurses -- but not just any nurses. Lott insists, "They need to be Baylor nurses."