By Jess Clarke
As the former owner of two successful Vermont businesses, Paulette Thabault takes an entrepreneurial approach to life.
“I always try to figure out how we can do something rather than why we can’t do it,” says Thabault, Norwich’s new School of Nursing director.
That approach worked well when she climbed nearly 20,000 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro recently, and it will influence her work at Norwich.
“I’m open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I think about being innovative,” she says. “That’s part of who I am, and I’m sure it will affect how I lead.”
The Burlington, Vt., native comes to Norwich from Northeastern University in Boston, where she directed the hybrid nursing program and served as an associate clinical professor of nursing. Most program courses there are online, but the clinicals and labs are face-to-face.
“Coming to a smaller university, where I can really work with individuals and move the nursing school in a direction the faculty and university support seems like a great opportunity,” she says. “When I met the faculty at Norwich, I could see it was a dedicated group, committed to excellence in nursing.”
Thabault’s experience with online education and openness to innovation are a good fit for Norwich.
“Her position is unusual in that it puts all the academic nursing programs, both residential and through the College of Graduate & Continuing Studies, under one academic leader,” says Dean of the College of Professional Schools Aron Temkin. “With her knowledge of the current state-of-the-art for online nursing education, I expect Paulette will help develop even more opportunities from this ‘bridge’ position.”
Thabault wants to incorporate opportunities for inter-professional collaborations with students and experts in other disciplines. She cites an example where nursing students could work side by side with sports medicine students on patient care in a simulation lab.
“Part of a transformative education is exploring options and flexibility in education,” Thabault says. “I want to make sure students see themselves as part of the health care team. That really is the future of health care. With communication across disciplines, we do much better for patients.”
Thabault’s priorities include supporting Norwich’s goals for admissions and graduation rates, creating community partnerships for clinical-placement options, and meeting standards for reaccreditation with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education before an accreditation site visit this fall.
In her previous work, she has taken students abroad to work in public health care and hopes to offer similar opportunities to Norwich students.
Thabault works as a nurse practitioner one day a week at a primary care office in South Burlington, where she and her husband live. She has a Master of Science in nursing from Simmons College and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Northeastern.
On the Kilimanjaro trip with her daughter, Thabault delivered baby-care items to an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania.
“We were so pleased to find someone with strong ties to nursing in Vermont, strong experience in higher education, and current knowledge and experience with the leading edge of nursing education,” Dean Temkin says.