Professor and alumna Mary Ann Cantrell, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN, is the director of our PhD in Nursing program. Of that program she has said, "Not only are we preparing (a student) to conduct high quality research, but also to be an excellent teacher in the classroom." Her own contributions to nursing education were recognized in September 2018 as she was inducted as a Fellow in the National League for Nursing’s (NLN) Academy of Nursing Education during NLN's Education Summit in Chicago.
Dr. Cantrell is known for her research and scholarship in nursing education, specifically advancing the science of simulation as an evidence-based pedagogy, work that has advanced the science of clinical simulation globally. The findings of her studies pioneered the use of clinical simulation in teaching quality and safety practice behaviors in pre-licensure students. These findings have engendered new-to-practice graduates’ with enhanced practice and higher order thinking skills to effect positive patient outcomes.
Dr. Cantrell has examined various aspects of clinical simulation such as debriefing and with her colleagues has provided a research trajectory for future clinical simulation studies to deepen the evidence base for simulation as pedagogy. Widely recognized internationally, her pioneering work in the development of simulated teaching-learning experiences at Villanova ignited the creation of simulated teaching-learning experiences across the curriculum. Her contributions also extend to mentoring PhD students in their scholarship efforts in simulation research.
Additionally, Dr. Cantrell’s work in the role of debriefing as a critical component in simulation-based experiences was a stimulus among nursing education researchers to further investigate it as an essential component to achieve leaning outcomes in simulation. She is a strong advocate of reflection in learning, and her research in explicating students’ perceptions on the importance of debriefing overall and specifically of video debriefing in simulation recognized the critical importance of debriefing. At the time of its publication, it was one of the initial studies to focus specifically on debriefing as an essential element in clinical simulation to foster learning. For several years after its publication, it was one of the most often read articles in Clinical Simulation in Nursing and has been cited 76 times in the nursing and healthcare literature.
Dr. Cantrell has built upon her scholarly efforts related to safety and quality practices enhancement among healthcare professionals, culminating in her current investigation, which is a multi-site intervention study aimed at engendering safety-focused practice behaviors among new-to-practice nurses, funded by the NLN, which features an academic and service partnership. These scholarship activities have deeply impacted the rigor and advanced the science of simulation.
Dr. Cantrell led a team of investigators in conducting an umbrella review, a systematic review of published systematic reviews. This publication featured 97 systematic reviews, inclusive of more than 400 individual studies, which were examined for methodological rigor. The outcome was a roadmap that established a simulation-based research agenda for investigators within the nursing discipline.
A visionary leader in clinical simulation research, Dr. Cantrell has helped grow a cadre of expert nursing faculty who conduct simulation research at Villanova. In 2016 and 2017, the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing was the number one institution in simulation publications in Clinical Simulation in Nursing. Her work continues to have a worldwide impact. As vice president for Research for the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning (INACSL), she provides leadership globally by guiding the board of directors in the prioritization of grant funding, educational offerings, and determining budgetary allocation. As a facilitator for the INACSL Research Fellowship, she mentors future researchers in advancing the evidence base of simulation.