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Women to Watch at UA Little Rock 2022: Joanna Hall

Joanna Hall
Joanna Hall

In celebration of Women’s History Month, UA Little Rock is profiling women in leadership positions who are making a difference at the university and in the community.

The next Woman to Watch at UA Little Rock of 2022 is Joanna Hall, director of simulation for the Center for Simulation Innovation and assistant professor of nursing.

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I was born and raised in Arkansas and am now raising my little boy here too. I have deep roots at UA Little Rock, graduating with my Bachelor of Science in 2009, Associate of Science in Nursing in 2013, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2015. I recently finished my Master of Nursing Science at UAMS in 2021.

Prior to pursuing nursing education here at UA Little Rock, I worked as a cardiac nurse at CHI St. Vincent for five years. Though I found fulfillment in bedside nursing and cardiac care, I have found a true passion getting to work with the amazing nursing students that go through our School of Nursing.

I have some of the most amazing family, friends, and coworkers around me. I enjoy the outdoors in Arkansas, especially when the weather is warm, and hope to buy my first kayak this summer. Lastly, and certainly not least, I am an avid Razorback fan. From football to basketball and everything in between, I love to call the Hogs!

What is your current position and professional duties at UA Little Rock?

Nursing education has been quite the evolution for me here at UA Little Rock. I started as an instructor in 2017, worked my way to interim director of simulation in 2019, and now fill the role of director of simulation and assistant professor. I have been afforded the opportunity to run our Center for Simulation Innovation here in the Pat Walker Center for Nursing Education on campus for the last three years.

From helping run day-to-day operations of our incredibly busy simulation center to organizing schedules and supplies to working on grant funding and research, I get to wear many hats. We have an exceptional group of simulation faculty and administrative support that enables me to foster a forward-thinking simulation curriculum, especially related to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusivity within our simulation center.

What woman has inspired you the most and why?

Though there have been so many women who have inspired me along my journey, the standout inspiration for me is my mom, Naomi Hall. She has been the epitome of resilience and strength throughout my life. Through plenty of life’s trials, she has consistently shown me how to persevere and be grateful for everything I have. She followed her dream and went back to school to become a massage therapist at 46.

Against so many odds, she followed her heart, grew a successful business, and showed me the power of ambition and hard work. Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” My amazing mother has set the most exquisitely real example of what a good human is in this life.

How have you adapted to working in a world with COVID-19? 

COVID-19 has required quite the adjustment in nursing education. From completely online nursing classes, skills, clinical, and simulation in 2020 to modified COVID-related classroom, clinical, and simulation experiences now, the changes have been many. Nurses are as resilient as they come, and our nursing faculty, staff, and students have risen to the challenge over the last couple of years.

How has the nursing field changed since the pandemic began?  

The important role that pre-licensure nursing programs and nursing employers play has become much more apparent in the last two years of COVID. Though Registered Nurse pay has increased (and it certainly needed to), so too has nurse burnout. Nursing is an extremely challenging profession even in the best, non-pandemic circumstances. COVID has only further complicated the healthcare environment, requiring our nurses to care for more complex patient populations and increasing competition with sign-on bonuses and travel assignments across the globe.

Focusing on retention initiatives to improve nurse mental health and working conditions is essential. There are some alarming statistics out there saying that anywhere from 30 percent to 57 percent of new graduate registered nurses are leaving healthcare within the first two years of practice. We are doing everything we can here in the UA Little Rock School of Nursing to help prepare our graduates with all the tools they need to be successful long term in nursing.

What’s next in your professional career?

I am really enjoying my position as director of simulation currently. The support I have from administration and faculty regarding advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in simulation is beyond exciting. As I continue to grow in my role, I have found such a passion for enhancing the nursing student experience through incorporation of more culturally competent simulation scenarios and technology.

It is my sincere hope that the work we are doing in CSI will help us develop more well-rounded humans and future nurses capable of taking care of our wonderfully diverse Central Arkansas community. So, what’s next? Helping facilitate change and continuing to advance human kindness and diversity in the future of our nursing workforce.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

My word for 2022 was perspective. I encourage you to appreciate the process and try to keep life in perspective. Hard work, passion, and a lot of laughter will get you farther in life than you know. Through the ups and downs, hold tight to the notion that you are exactly where you need to be. Learn from the downs, appreciate the ups, and never forget that you are worthy.

As my absolute favorite author and podcaster Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.” Life is certainly not always easy, but a little resilience goes a long way. When in doubt, remember that there is always a seat at the table for you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Name something about yourself that most people would be surprised to learn.

This does not come as a surprise to anyone that knows me, but to those who don’t, I am fascinated by sharks. I collect shark teeth and will watch literally any documentary about shark conservation. I have always lived in a landlocked state, which makes my interest a bit out of left field. Thanks to watching “Jaws” at a young age, I am hooked on sharks (pun intended)!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Go Trojans!