The second installment of CU Nursing’s Virtual Film Festival showcased a giant in nursing – Loretta Ford, (EdD ’61, MS ’51, BSN ’49) – with the documentary titled Loretta Ford: A Disruptive Innovator. Soon to be 100 years old, Dr. Ford proves that age is just a number.
Recognized worldwide as the co-founder of the first nurse practitioner program in the country, Ford is a superstar in nursing circles. She, together with Dr. Henry Silver, founded the program in the mid-1960s while at the University of Colorado School of Nursing, her alma mater. In typical Ford fashion, she said with a shrug and laugh, “The NPs do the work, and I keep getting the credit!”
Joined by nearly 40 participants via Zoom on the weekly live chat, Ford answered questions about her life, how she came to Colorado and developed the program, and reconnected with former students. Maddie Nichols, a member of CU’s first Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Class of ’67, was one of those students who joined the conversation and reminisced. Maddie thanked Ford for “51 years -- giving me a job I loved. It was a whole new field we were pioneering. We had mentors who helped us get through the culture at that time. Both Drs. Ford and Silver helped us be a force in the nursing field.”
“One of the greatest joys I have is, really, the love Nurse Practitioners have for their practice and the way that they practice. They like it. They like nursing in that form. That’s a great reward,” said Ford.
As is the case with many pioneers, they are not well-loved while fighting the fight.
Ford said physicians were supportive, but the nursing faculty was not. “We had tried for years to separate from medicine. This seemed like a step back for many.” Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the autonomy the role of NP would provide. Surprised by the resistance, Ford thought she “was doing exactly what the profession wanted. The degree would provide opportunities for study in a specialized field, teamwork, autonomy and statutory authority.” It was a time of change in nursing and other schools were on the cusp of developing similar programs. With trailblazers like Ford and Silver, CU was ahead of the game. “People were flowing into Colorado to check out what we were doing,” said Ford.
However, changing the culture proved difficult at CU. Recognizing the pioneers who made the difference, Ford said, “Without their support, I couldn’t have done all of this. Also, their enthusiasm. I could see the changes in them, and seeing that change, increases in self-esteem and professionalization, was worth everything that I was experiencing at the time. They were my spark, and they still are. So much enthusiasm for nursing.”
For Ford, a change of scenery was an important next step in her career. After establishing the NP program at CU, she took a position with the University of Rochester where she established their first School of Nursing and became dean. It was another first for her and a challenge at which she excelled. “It was a very difficult decision, but it was an attempt to unify practice and education. That’s what appealed to me.” And in some ways, according to Ford, the unification model was as important as the Nurse Practitioner Model.
“It’s seldom that you get the chance to talk with someone who is recognized as one of the greats in nursing,” said Sue Hagedorn, the host, and filmmaker who made the festival possible. This was indeed a treat for many including Mary Pat Dewald (MS in Nursing from UCCS in ’08) who raved about the opportunity, “I want you all to know how much I thoroughly enjoyed the Zoom festival today! I appreciate you all leading the way. Such Inspiration.” And, Lily Bultema, CNM, WHNP (’09) enthusiastically stated, “This film series is inspiring me to consider a DNP (I’m 60!) but these women are so amazing!!”
During the live chat, Ford held an enthusiastic crowd captive including current students. One such student --- Alicia Le Pard who is scheduled to graduate in 2021 with a PhD – summed it up best. “I just wanted to say that I took a word of wisdom from you today, Dr. Ford. In the documentary you said something that resonated with me, I’ll be making a plaque of it for my wall. You stated, ‘Don’t waste time, get it done!’” Ford quipped, “Sounds like me!”
The next film up for review is titled Advanced Practice Nurses: Keeping Colorado Strong. Special guests are Karen Zink (MS ‘87) and Dixie Melton (MS ‘88).