The Power of Connection

The Power of Connection

With a BSN and PhD from the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, Dr. Laurie Ecoff knows first-hand the value of a USD education. Today, she serves as Vice President of Terrence and Barbara Caster Institute for Nursing Excellence at Sharp HealthCare while simultaneously preparing future nurse leaders in her role as Clinical Professor teaching in the ENL program and the MEPN leadership course at USD Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.

When Dr. Laurie Ecoff reflects on what makes the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science special, there’s a lilt in her voice, “oh, well first of all, the campus is beautiful.” But her thoughts of natural light-filled classrooms and the inviting physical spaces quickly shift to the intangible essence of the nursing campus: relationships.

“Here, it’s a collegial relationship,” says Dr. Ecoff. “I’m not coming into the classroom and talking at students. I structure my classes as a meeting where I have an agenda. Students start with reflection, then we move into discussion. Even with the seminar format, there’s always some application of the knowledge—it’s very hands on. The Executive Nurse Leader course I teach are focused on hearing from the students’ experiences, reflective learning, and then challenging them to incorporate this learning into what they will do as a leader.”

These student-faculty relationships foster enhanced learning opportunities. But relationship-building at the Hahn School of Nursing doesn’t stop there. There’s also a cultivation of deep connections rooted in mutual respect between the dean, the administration and the faculty that completes the experience. Dr. Ecoff witnessed this when one of the nurses at Sharp was looking for an alternative to an online program.

“She came to me after a semester of online classes a bit deflated and said that the experience was not really meeting her needs. Of course, I told her about USD. Later that afternoon I happened to be at USD and just popped my head in to the director of admissions office who asked me if I knew anyone who would want to come here and get a merit scholarship. We made the connection, and today, that student has her Masters in ENL from USD. It was a great fit because she wanted to have that face-to-face time with the faculty and with her colleagues.”

Along every step of their journey, Dr. Ecoff sees the connections at USD playing a critical role in students’ success. “When it comes to preceptorships, it’s about relationships. For example, I know a lot of nurse leaders in the community and I’ll touch base with these contacts to help facilitate a placement. On top of that, there are dedicated people at USD who take care of making these connections.” 

With these connections, students will continue to gain knowledge and develop skills in pursuit of lifelong learning. “All of the faculty work in full-time leadership roles, so students are getting real life knowledge transfer from experts that are practicing.”

Dr. Laurie Ecoff

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Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science


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