Nursing professors honored as Fellows of their professional organizations

Two of the East Carolina University College of Nursing’s most seasoned nurses and professors have recently been recognized as fellows of their professional organizations, honors that recognize their excellence as members of the health care community. Dr. Julie Linder, clinical associate professor in the Advanced Practice Nursing and Education Department, was inducted as fellow of the Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute during a ceremony in New Orleans March 12, and Dr. Michelle Skipper, director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, was inducted as a fellow of the National Academies of Practice at its annual meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 16.

Dr. Bim Akintade, the dean of the College of Nursing, said Linder’s and Skipper’s inductions are a testament to their individual professional expertise and a recognition of the national leadership of the college’s faculty.

“I’m very proud of both Michelle and Julie, certainly for being recognized as fellows by their peers, but more so because of how they mentor their students while conducting cutting-edge research and rendering service to our communities across North Carolina,” Akintade said.


Dr. Julie Linder poses with her peers following the induction ceremony for fellows of the Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute.

Linder grew up in Raleigh and graduated from ECU after studying recreation sciences. She wanted to apply to the nursing school but saw how her roommate struggled with chemistry and was dissuaded. A nagging sense that she wanted to be a nurse led her to Pitt Community College a decade later. It turned out that chemistry wasn’t the insurmountable hurdle she thought it would be.

“I maybe made a 99 in it, so I should have never doubted myself,” Linder said.

After attending Pitt Community College, she attended ECU’s College of Nursing Alternate Entry master’s in nursing program, where she graduated as a Pirate nurse with a master’s degree, qualified as a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

“The clinical nurse specialist is the unicorn of advanced practice nurses; we focus on the patient, nursing and health care system spheres of influence,” Linder said. “We integrate and weave those pieces together to improve patient outcomes.”

Her job as a clinical nurse specialist is to translate evidence into practice for the patient by knowing the hospital, clinic or health system inside and out. If several patients in the same hospital get similar infections, is there a common cause that could be rooted out? Or she might need to shepherd a complicated patient through their stay at the hospital or help a shell-shocked family understand the consequences of a loved one’s devastating diagnosis.

“I once cared for a patient who turned 18 when he was in the hospital, and he was not a U.S. citizen. As a child, he could get some emergency coverage, but then when he turned 18 the health care coverage stopped. Then the question became who is going to care for this person?” Linder recalled. “The family did not want him to be deported so I taught the family how to care for him: how to use the feeding tube, how to care for the tracheostomy so they were able to take him home and stay together as a family.”

As a CNS, she is a fixer. A problem solver. And it’s a role she relishes. She loves the responsibility because it allowed her to lean into her comfort with ambiguity and messiness, bringing order from the chaos that hospitals sometimes conjure.

Linder’s long-term goal was always to end up at ECU’s College of Nursing, and she made an easy decision to become a nursing professor to help shape the next generations of clinical nurse specialists. There are about 80 students in the CNS program — the largest group the college has ever seen — from all over the country. Once they graduate, they will be able to make impacts on individual patients and regional health from the system level.

Last year two of her peers, Drs. Shannon Powell and Chelsea Passwater, recommended her as a fellow to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, a significant honor that recognizes a nurse’s lifetime of contributions to their field. Adding to the significance of her acceptance, she is the first Pirate nurse faculty member to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute fellow.

“There are approximately 175 CNSs in the whole state; there are only two other fellows and they are in Charlotte,” Linder said.

The need for CNSs is so great that when a health care system has an open position, “it will take them a year to recruit” a graduate from ECU’s program, which is the only one of its kind in North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, Linder said.

Linder’s recognition by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists demonstrates that as one of the few CNS-graduating institutions in the country, ECU and Pirate nursing are lucky to have her shaping North Carolina’s health care future.


Dr. Michelle Skipper

At the end of January, Dr. Michelle Skipper celebrated 18 years as a faculty member at the College of Nursing, a milestone in which she takes great pride.

At the National Academies of Practice annual meeting and forum, Skipper was inducted as a Distinguished fellow of the National Academies of Practice. The NAP is a unique nonprofit, interdisciplinary organization “dedicated to supporting affordable, accessible, coordinated quality health care for all,” which suits Skipper to a T as she’s spent her career working to expand the reach of affordable health care for rural North Carolinians.

“We all appreciate when somebody tells us we’re doing what we think we’re supposed to be doing,” said Skipper, who is already a fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Skipper acknowledges a reality that her and Linder’s fellowships have on the public’s appreciation of the College of Nursing: more faculty members who are fellows means higher assessments in various national rankings.

That the College of Nursing has so many fellows, who represent a broad swath of nursing disciplines, is a sign that the college is a wonderful place to teach and conduct research, Skipper said.

“We have retained a lot of people, for a long time, who are invested in the mission and vision of the college. They choose to stay at ECU and influence health care in the region, which aligns with the university’s mission to transform rural health and well-being,” Skipper said.

Skipper has been challenged to think about what her legacy at the college will be. She works daily to establish a legacy of quality graduates who become Pirate nurse practitioners.

“I want local communities to choose an ECU alumnus for their primary care, because they know it’s the best health care provider they could trust for the well-being of their families,” Skipper said.

Skipper said she is also proud to have assumed a lifelong role as an advocate for patients, and the nursing profession, at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Dr. Julie Linder presents research during the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists convention.

“You can’t just be a nurse practitioner,” Skipper said. “You have to be an involved nurse practitioner, between politics, business, your community — all of it.”

Skipper added that she hopes part of her legacy is that North Carolina would become a state with full-practice authority for all advanced practice registered nurse groups. Her retirement date is uncertain, but she said that she won’t retire until North Carolina aligns itself with the other 27 states that allow nurses to work to the full scope of their education.

“I love working in Raleigh alongside the five nurses who currently serve in the N.C. General Assembly,” Skipper said. “Those five women are my real heroes.”

Skipper is thankful that her friend, colleague and established National Academies of Practice fellow, Dr. Annette Greer, nominated her for the honor.

“Both of us have commitments to agriculture, to helping our students understand the impact of agriculture, faith and food security for patients. I’m tickled that she nominated me for that because it validates our commitment to the farmers, fishers and loggers who have long served rural communities in North Carolina and to all of the new populations we have living in eastern North Carolina now,” Skipper said.


Linder and Skipper will join the College of Nursing’s current fellows, including:

Dr. Bim Akintade — Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing

Dr. Becky Bagley — Fellow of the American College of Nurse Midwives

Dr. Brittany Baker — Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Dr. Linda Bolin — Fellow of the American Heart Association

Dr. Richard Cowling — Academy of Nursing Education Fellows, Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing

Dr. Nancy Dias — Fellow in Palliative Care Nursing

Dr. Frances Eason — Academy of Nursing Education Fellows

Dr. Linda Dunnum Hofler — Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives

Dr. Susan Kennerly — Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing

Dr. Donna Lake — Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing

Dr. Kim Larson — Fellow of the National Academies of Practice

Dr. Pam Reis — Fellow of the American College of Nurse Midwives

Dr. Michelle Skipper — Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Dr. Laura Gantt — Fellow of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare Academy