Kennedy-Malone wraps up pioneering career

Posted on April 25, 2024

Laura Kennedy Malone at UNCG graduation ceremony with a student.

Laurie Kennedy-Malone is wrapping up a distinguished career at UNC Greensboro as a scholar, innovator, and expert in the nursing care of older adults.

To mark the milestone, Kennedy-Malone will deliver a talk in the University’s Last Lecture series on April 30. The event celebrates Kennedy-Malone’s 34 years of award-winning service to UNCG, its School of Nursing, and nurse practitioner education.

The School of Nursing’s Eloise R. Lewis Excellence Professor also collected the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner’s Outstanding Scholar Award in Baltimore April 20. It’s the latest of dozens of awards she’s received throughout her career.

Over the years, Kennedy-Malone garnered $3.6 million from multiyear, federally funded grants, including one that led to UNCG’s adult-gerontological nurse practitioner program.

“A lot of serendipity and second chances happened to me along the way,” she says. “It’s been a career I couldn’t have imagined 50 years ago when I first decided I wanted to be a registered nurse.”

Volunteer position Launches a career

We won’t tell the story of what led Kennedy-Malone into nursing – we’ll leave it to her to tell that during her Last Lecture – but when retires in May, she will have come full circle from her high school days as a hospital volunteer in her home state of Pennsylvania.

After earning an associate degree in nursing from Gwynedd Mercy College in 1977, she became a registered nurse in a Pennsylvania hospital. Finding the job less satisfying than she’d hoped, she decided she wanted to return to college. She took a second job at a small retirement home, so she could finish college without debt.

“That’s where I fell in love with gerontological nursing,” Kennedy-Malone recalls.

She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Worcester State College in Massachusetts, where she successfully pursued a certificate in gerontology and had the chance to work with a gerontological nurse practitioner (GNP). That experience inspired her to get a master’s degree as a certified GNP from the University of Lowell, in Massachusetts

When her first job as a NP in Massachusetts didn’t work out, Kennedy-Malone headed to Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas as a N.P. gerontological clinical nurse specialist/nurse practitioner and began working on her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I was finishing up my dissertation research, and at that time – which was 1989 – there really wasn’t reimbursement for what nurse practitioners did, and the hospital just couldn’t afford my position anymore,” she recalls. “And in reality, I was ready to do something else.”

Nursing professor Laurie Kennedy-Malone collaborates with three library staff members (Richard Cox, Sam Harlow, and Vanessa Apple) on a major grant that required a new digital portal to be created.

Visionary accomplishments

Kennedy-Malone sent her resume to UNCG because a friend encouraged her to, and the university just happened to be hiring for a faculty position in gerontological nursing. She was invited to join the faculty in 1990.

While serving as a visiting assistant professor of nursing, a colleague spurred her to write a grant application for a gerontological nurse practitioner program. That grant was awarded and served as the foundation for the gerontological N.P. program established at UNCG. The program, which now is an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner program, continues today.

School of Nursing Dean Debra Barksdale called Kennedy-Malone’s work on strategies to integrate gerontology into the N.P. curriculum “visionary.” Today, nurse practitioners’ services are reimbursed by insurance companies, and the need for ones experienced in gerontology has taken off.

“I knew it was something that really needed to be taught as a specialty because there are definite differences in how we should care for that population,” Kennedy-Malone says. “Forty years ago, the population of people who were 65 and over was probably closer to 12%, but that has greatly increased. Now it’s closer to 17% and projected to go higher.”

In addition to being proud of her role in starting UNCG’s gerontological NP program, Kennedy-Malone says she’s pleased with three other accomplishments that will carry her legacy forward: She led the creation of 28 clinical simulation videos that are used nationwide; wrote and edited numerous books, including two named American Journal of Nursing books of the year; and taught countless students who have gone on to become leaders in nursing and nursing education.

The videos earned UNCG the American Association of Colleges and Nursing’s Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award for public colleges and universities in 2023. Barksdale noted that the videos’ release online before the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an invaluable asset to nurse practitioner faculty nationwide.

On “making it”

When it comes to writing and editing, Kennedy-Malone says she’s found it gratifying to include sections written by her former students in the five books she’s published for nurse practitioners working with older adults.

“I think you have really made it when you can move from being their professor to being their colleague,” she says. “They’ll often refer to me as their mentor, and I’m always humbled and honored with that, but they certainly have taught me a great deal.”

Register for the Last Lecture Series: Laurie Kennedy-Malone, to be held from 4 to 6 p.m. April 30 in Room 510 of the Nursing and Instructional Building.

Story by Dee Shore, AMBCopy
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

Laura Kennedy Malone holding her NONPF award.

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