Executive Associate Dean Pam Mitchell retires

Executive Associate Dean Pam Mitchell retires

Pam Mitchell class of 1962

Rock Star, legend, mentor, pioneer, and mother of neuroscience and nursing care are just a few of the adjectives used to describe the distinguished career of Executive Associate Dean Pamela Mitchell. Since 1966, Mitchell has been an instrumental part of the University of Washington’s School of Nursing.

“Pam Mitchell has made a tremendous impact in the School of Nursing,” said Executive Dean Azita Emami, “and we are thankful for her inspirational leadership in  nursing research and her outstanding work in neurology.” Emami added that the UW School of Nursing is fortunate, proud, and honored to have her knowledge, dedication, and commitment to our school and the nursing field for so many years.  “We will miss her, but wish her the best in her retirement – the next stage in her remarkable life,” stated Emami.

Class of 1962 at their 50th reunion

Throughout her time at the School, Mitchell has held many positions. Peg Heitkemper, Soule Endowed Chair, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Informatics put it perfectly saying “Mitchell has been a strong consistent presence in the School and has led the School in different ways – curriculum, research, and service.”

Mitchell has worked with many students. She especially loved working with students of all levels from teaching BSNs, Master’s to PhD students. In addition to mentoring and being the lead for the undergraduate honors program, Mitchell encouraged students to explore nursing research.

Pam Mitchell and Jillian Pintye

“Pam played a significant role in helping my uptake of nursing research when I initially joined the honors program,” said Cindy Dong BSN ‘16. “I had been involved with research but it was not nursing-related and the concept of ‘nursing research’ was new to me. I continued to struggle with bridging the gap between anesthesia research and the nursing perspective. Pam listened to my concern carefully and enlightened me with the connection between patient suffering and nursing care. Essentially, she directed me to the right path and I was able to tailor my project to be more nursing focused.”

“As an international student, Pam has been nothing but supportive, gave me strategies for my research and advised me on how to overcome challenges,” said Afnan Hamad Al Swyan, PhD student. She gave me a sense of belonging and a strong commitment to the School and nursing field.”

Hilaire Thompson and Pam Mitchell

Mitchell is also heavily involved with ARCS Foundation, a national organization dedicated to supporting the best and brightest U.S. graduate and undergraduate scholars by providing financial awards in science, engineering, and medical research. As an ARCS supporter, she mentored Jillian Pintye PhD, ’17 who benefited from their scholarships. With regards to Mitchell’s impact on her personally, Pintye pointed to Mitchell’s mentorship and dedication. “She checked in on my research, met with me a few times a year, and fully invested in my education pushing me to take advantage of what UW has to offer,” said Pintye. “Without Pam and her words of encouragement, I would not have been able to pursue my Ph.D.”

According to Hilaire Thompson, the Joanne Montgomery Endowed Professor, Mitchell is known as the “mother of neuroscience nursing care” for persons with decreased intracranial adaptive capacity. She noted, “When one thinks of neuroscience nursing globally, one immediately thinks of UW’s School of Nursing because of her pioneering work.”

Nancy Woods and Pam Mitchell

Mitchell also did some of the earliest clinical research focusing on the consequences of nursing care on intracranial pressure at a time that preceded the application of technologies to this area of research. “Over the course of her career she expanded her scope to focus on post-stroke recovery, conducting research that has the capacity to touch millions of lives in this country alone.  She made unique contributions to studying systems of care as well as the individual within those systems, advancing the understanding of the importance of organizational support for nurses practicing in critical care units.  Pam has been a constant leader and her wise counsel guided the School of Nursing faculty toward excellence,” recalled Nancy Fugate Woods, Professor and Dean Emerita.

Mitchell’s research inspired Ellita Williams, PhD ‘17 to pursue her PhD at UW’s School of Nursing. Working as a RN, she knew she wanted to further her education. She did research on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and came across Mitchell and her research. After reading about her, Williams knew Mitchell was a “rockstar,” making her decision easy – she would move to Seattle to work on a PhD. “She gave me the confidence to study TBI and made it tangible,” said Williams.

Mitchell’s stellar career has been recognized nationally and she has received numerous prestigious awards, including:

School of Nursing faculty at FNINR event

  • Fellow and former President of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN)
  • Fellow of the American Heart Association (FAHA)
  • American Association of Neuroscience Nurses Award for Distinguished Contributions to Neuroscience Nursing; also lifetime honorary membership
  • Western Institute of Nursing Jo Eleanor Elliott leadership award; also distinguished research lecture award
  • Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research Pathfinder Award
  • Ada Sue Hinshaw Award
  • Sigma Theta Tau International Inaugural Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame
  • Washington State Academy of Sciences – elected fellow
  • Washington State Nurses Association – Honorary Recognition Award and Nurse Researcher Award
  • The Friends of the National Institute of Nursing Research (FNINR) ambassador

In retirement, Mitchell plans to keep her hand in nursing by consulting in research and hopes to continue to assist with grant reviews. She also plans to continue her role as associate editor for the International Nursing Review. She and her husband enjoy adventure travel and she wants to travel both professionally and personally. She will continue to do volunteer work, serving as board chair for a nonprofit that works on transitional and permanent housing with individuals with mental illness. And if all of that isn’t enough, she has been named faculty emeritus by her department Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Informatics!

While Mitchell was an instrumental figure in the School of Nursing and in her research, she was also raising three sons and married to a busy physician. She is a remarkable woman and we are thankful for Mitchell’s lifelong work and wish her the very best in what is shaping up to be one busy retirement.