Dr. Dorrie Fontaine, RN, PhD, FAAN, is the Dean Emeritus and former Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Nursing. The International nurse honor society Sigma Nursing awarded UVA School of Nursing its first-ever 2019 Healthy Work Environment (HWE) Award to UVA and Dr. Fontaine who was a founding member of the School’s HWE committee devoted to improving communication, respect, and resilience among faculty and staff. Dr. Fontaine is a distinguished clinician, scholar, researcher, educator, and leader. She is a past president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) and the association recognized her contributions with its Lifetime Member Award. Dr. Fontaine was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing, has received the Presidential Citation from the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society. She received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award from UVA Health System as well as the University of Maryland’s Visionary Pioneer Award. Dr. Fontaine received recognition from UVA’s Sons and Daughters of Liberty for her leadership along with UVA’s Lifetime Learning Outstanding Faculty Speaker recognition award. Prior to her appointment at UVA, Dr. Fontaine was associate dean for academic programs and clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco. Before coming to UCSF, Dr. Fontaine held associate dean positions and taught at Georgetown University School of Nursing

Dr. Fontaine is currently on a sabbatical writing a series of books with colleagues for Sigma, on self-care and resilience for nurses. The book is aimed at nursing students and nurse clinicians and will include a handbook, a workbook, and a faculty guide (due out in 2021). This could not be timelier with the inherent stress of being a nurse and then the pandemic of COVID-19 on top of the historic levels of reported burnout. “The predictions of PTSD are surely not understated. Helping nurses care for themselves with some specific strategies that are not selfish but life giving are all key aspects I learned at the University of Virginia while creating our Compassionate Care Initiative,” said Dr. Fontaine https://cci.nursing.virginia.edu/

Dr. Fontaine has seen nurses at important decision-making tables during the COVID-19 crisis and feels nurses bring an important perspective. “Every hospital chief nurse, nurse managers and staff are at the table in designing new units and repurposing older ones, making way for more ICU beds in many cases. Using more telehealth has agencies inviting nurses to make decisions. Academic leaders in nursing are at the table to help decide how best to teach students via simulation and how to hold classes safely. Health systems are turning to nurses who know how to get things done quickly and safely”, said Dr. Fontaine.  

Call to Action

“Getting the stories out there of our nurses who relentlessly care for vulnerable patients is a challenge. Say yes if invited to tell the stories of our nurses. If not invited, find ways to move the conversation along in the media to highlight nursing contributions to care and innovations.

The world is paying attention to nurses right now and other health care workers. Nurse leaders have the responsibility to step up into the limelight, so to speak, and boldly talk about their roles in protecting the health of the public.