Peer Evaluator Spotlight: Pamela Santarlasci

Peer Evaluator Spotlight: Pamela Santarlasci

by A’Leyah Finley, BA, Editor at the ACEN

For this edition, we decided to spotlight one of our friendliest and most dedicated team chairs. Dr. Pam Santarlasci is a welcome addition to any site visit team and exemplifies the leadership and empathy we expect of our peer evaluators. She is knowledgeable, adaptable, and has been an asset to the ACEN staff and the programs she has visited in her tenure. When approached for the article, Dr. Santarlasci graciously accepted, taking time out of her schedule to respond to the questions below.

Tell us about yourself! Where do you work and live?

I recently moved from Exton, PA, where I lived for over 25 years to Audubon, PA. I currently live in an over-55 community, which is like living in a permanent resort! Currently, I work as a nurse practitioner for a primary care company. I also volunteer at a free clinic for uninsured people in Chester County, PA. I “retired” from teaching about four years ago but worked as an adjunct clinical faculty member during the COVID-19 pandemic aiding the local health department, which had students administering COVID-19 vaccines. This was a wonderful experience for the students to obtain a better understanding of community involvement in healthcare.

How long have you been in nursing and nursing education? What are your credentials?

I have been involved in nursing for almost 50 years in a variety of nursing positions: pediatric staff nurse, pediatric clinic head nurse, visiting nurse, geriatric staff nurse, and a rehabilitation nurse case manager. Upon earning my MSN, I transitioned to nursing education over 20 years ago, and eventually decided to pursue my doctoral degree. My credentials are as follows: PhD, MSN, BSN, RN, CRNP, CNE (retired).

Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Do you maintain a current nursing practice? Are you engaged in any research projects? Are you pursuing an advanced degree? Are you serving on any boards you would like us to know about?

Currently, I am working as a nurse practitioner. In Spring 2023, I will be returning to teaching in a master’s in nursing education program. This is in part due to my experience as an ACEN peer evaluator, which has allowed me to provide students with real-life examples of how a strong curriculum strengthens a nursing program.

How many ACEN site visits have you gone on?

I have been a peer evaluator since Fall 2011 visiting over 25 nursing programs, including one international virtual visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are your favorite memories of going on site visits? What did you learn?

Site visits are always interesting! Student meetings are my favorite part of each visit; students are always ready to share the highs and lows of their educational experience! I also love meeting the faculty, seeing the campuses, and touring the laboratory settings. Watching the progression of the simulation and skills laboratory environments over the years has also been a huge highlight—the programs that have “mini” hospitals as part of their simulation laboratories are absolutely amazing!

Have you ever served for the Evaluation Review Panel? What was that like?

I have been serving at the ERP since 2014, and it has been an amazing experience. The program reviews are thoughtful and consistently focused on the standards. Each panelist has a voice and opportunity to offer their perspective in a professional manner. The off-time lunches and dinners give us time to meet new members and renew old friendships. The knowledge and experience of ERP members is without equal.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a peer evaluator and go on site visits or serve on a panel in the future?

Go for it! Understand that while this is a “volunteer” position, there is a lot of work and time devoted to being a peer evaluator or an ERP member, but it is worth every minute. Serving as a peer evaluator has given me the opportunity to visit communities that I would have never had the chance to see. As a ERP member, I have met and developed friendships with some amazing nurse educators. The experience and knowledge gained from the experience is without equal and will serve you well in your own program. I have never visited a program where I did not learn something of value. Additionally, the ACEN staff is always helpful—whether it be a travel concern, a site visit question, or a general inquiry.

What is the thing you least expected as a nurse entering nurse education?

My first job in nursing education was as a clinical adjunct faculty member in long-term care. My thought when I agreed to the position was, “How hard can this be?” After the first hour, I knew how challenging this was going to be and realized that this was what I wanted to do for as long as I could. I wanted to give students the opportunity to be better than what they thought they could be. Teaching students provided me with the opportunity to help students achieve their goals, whether the goals were what they originally thought they wanted or a different path altogether.