Joined USJ: 2008
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Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of working with students during their senior year is “watching them emerge as a nurse through that year,” observes Janet Knecht. Collaborating in patient care as they respond to the challenges of their clinical experience is especially satisfying for an individual whose devotion to science, learning, teaching and critical care is very much a part of her DNA.
Knecht knew as a youngster that she would attend college directly after high school. Encouraged by her parents and her love of science — coupled with her dad’s later illness — made nursing especially attractive. She had spent time visiting intensive care units, and viewed that setting as one that afforded a meaningful opportunity to analyze scientifically and deliver care effectively. She worked in a hospital through college, and upon graduation, ignored advice that “nobody would hire a new graduate to work in an ICU,” and was hired by a Level 1 Trauma Center in her native Pennsylvania. Within two years, she was recruited for her ability to deliver instruction as well as care, encouraged to pursue graduate school, and went on to develop a highly-regarded orientation internship program in critical care.
After relocating to Connecticut and time as a health coach and cardiac liaison, she was drawn into teaching and Saint Joseph — and took to both instantly. Her passion for teaching and devotion to critical care come together for USJ students, who “embrace the philosophy, mission and Mercy values,” and take their academic work seriously. Knecht works energetically to engage students in their own education, and in doing so — in writing workshops, classroom discussion or innovatively integrating technology — the fact that students are “overwhelmingly gracious” provides both encouragement and incentive. USJ’s nursing program has a well-earned reputation for rigor, but Knecht explains that she prefers to de-emphasize the “fear factor” that often accompanies an exacting program. “I’m there to help, but there are expectations. They need to come prepared — and they do.” Adept at responding to varying learning styles and noted for her student-centered approach, she earned the prestigious 2013 Reverend John J. Stack Teaching Excellence Award.
Knecht is an active researcher. Exploring how patients, particularly women, respond to a diagnosis of heart failure and the regime of medication that follows has led to professional publications and presentations. Knecht is also deeply involved in advocating service learning through the Wellness Center, serving as faculty advisor and helping to coordinate off-site efforts including flu shot clinics and student involvement at local health fairs. In this role, her recent research involved analysis of the experiences of nursing students who had volunteered with Hartford’s underserved population. Findings may influence revisions to USJ coursework. Knecht is also a student herself, proceeding to complete her dissertation en route to earning her Ph. D.
M.S.N., Thomas Jefferson University
B.S., York College of Pennsylvania
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