Barbara Scheffer

Nursing the Future

by Jeff Samoray

When Barbara Scheffer joined Eastern’s Department of Nursing as an instructor in 1976, she only planned to teach for a couple of years until her young children entered school.

“Teaching at the university level fascinated me,” says Scheffer, who began her career as a staff nurse at University of Michigan Hospitals in 1967.

“Teaching also gave me a stable and flexible schedule, which was important when my kids were young. I stuck around because I never became bored. I really enjoyed the ‘eureka’ moments my students had when they understood a concept I was teaching.”

Scheffer taught at Eastern for 37 years, preparing and mentoring students to provide excellent nursing care to the community and to people with psychiatric and mental illness. She progressed to full professor and became associate dean in the College of Health and Human Services before retiring in July.

After inspiring legions of students in her distinguished 37-year career, Scheffer continues to promote nursing education through an endowed scholarship that supports an interdisciplinary doctoral program she helped create.

The Barbara K. Scheffer Endowed Scholarship in Nursing provides an annual scholarship to a graduate nursing student in Eastern’s PhD in Educational Studies–Nursing Education program. Scheffer’s children, Amanda Brown (BA99) and Daniel Scheffer each made a generous $5,000 lead gift to spur the fundraising. After receiving a matching gift of $10,000 from an anonymous donor and additional contributions from colleagues, alumni, friends and family, the endowment now totals more than $25,000.

“My decision to retire was challenging, but having the scholarship in place made the decision more comfortable,” Scheffer says. “I’m really pleased that it’s supported entirely by private donations, because the funds come from people who really value nursing education.”

In addition to helping develop nurse educators who teach students to think critically and utilize best nursing practices, Scheffer hopes the scholarship will have an impact on the current nursing shortage. The demand for registered nurses is expected to increase as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.

“Many nurse educators are retiring, and there aren’t nearly enough young teachers to help develop the next generation of nurses,” Scheffer says. “It’s very important to support nurse educators if we want quality health care. Numerous studies show that well-educated nurses lead to lower mortality rates in a hospital setting. These nurses identify problems faster and intervene more quickly than their less-educated counterparts.”

“I’m strongly committed to carrying on the kind of research I’ve done in critical thinking and finding better ways to teach nursing. To do that and reduce the nursing shortage, we must support students who want to be nurse educators.”