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PATRICIA BENNER - Member Connections

By Blog Master
Posted: 05/25/2021
Tags: bios





If you ever find yourself overcome with a sense of “ennui”, as if there is really nothing much to get excited about, you should arrange to spend an hour with Pasadena Village member Patricia Benner. You may start off with a bit of a slouch in your attitude, but you will quickly snap to attention as you find yourself engaged in discussions of philosophy, ethics, feminism and artificial intelligence.  


Patricia began her career in nursing in the 1970’s, working mainly in the emergency room, ICU ward, and the coronary care unit at the UC San Francisco hospital. But she was drawn to research and teaching, and went back to school to earn her PhD from UC Berkeley. During that time she became acquainted with Hubert Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy at UC Berkeley, and found that she now had “a language to describe what I had been seeing.” She was interested in how nurses use their work experience to most effectively care for their patients. She conducted research that documented a developmental continuum in which a nurse may progress from a novice to an expert.  The research led to the first of many books, this one titled From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Nursing Practice which has been translated into twelve languages and is used by nursing schools and hospitals throughout the world.


With her colleagues she developed an online simulation program (NovEx: to teach nursing students and beginning nurses to effectively clinically reason about a patient’s changing clinical condition across time---learning to provide the highest priority and most urgent assessments and interventions.  


This program, along with a second online Faculty Development program, helped faculty transition quickly to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-class meetings became impossible. As the COVID-19 pandemic deepened Patricia found herself re-immersed in effort to provide vital training to already stressed medical institutions. She also provided informed articles on the ethical demands of limited clinical resources such as ICU beds, respirators, oxygen, and more.


Patricia continues to influence the nursing profession as the director of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching National Nursing Education Study. Her original study under the Carnegie Foundation resulted in the book Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation (2009).  


Dr. Benner’s work has influence beyond nursing in the areas of clinical practice and clinical ethics. Her latest area of interest is in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She recently co-authored an article, Beyond Pathologizing Harm: Understanding PTSD in the Context of War Experience. In this study, researchers interviewed nurses who cared for wounded American soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study shows that returning soldiers suffering from PTSD have difficulty in transitioning from their war experiences to their “home” experiences. By acknowledging and supporting their transition from “there” to “here” the soldier can begin the recovery process.


During a wide ranging interview it is clear that Patricia plans on continuing to use her skills and knowledge to examine critical issues of our time relating to health care, ethics, equity, and more. “I feel a moral obligation to share the stories of real life people as a means to influence how we care for the most vulnerable among us.” Her interests include the aging process and she has written article about coping with illness and understanding life as we age. As for Patricia, she is definitely “redefining aging” and is making a difference beyond the Village.


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