Amita Avadhani
Amita Avadhani

Amita Avadhani, newly appointed chair of the Department of Nursing, brings not only an extensive teaching and leadership background to the College of Public Health but also vital experience in critical care, including work as a hospital ICU nurse during the outbreak of COVID-19.

Avadhani comes to Temple from Rutgers University, where she earned her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and served in leadership and teaching roles, including directing acute care nurse practitioner master’s and DNP programs, as well as post-master's programs. Her work with professional organizations at the state, national, and international level includes serving on the board of directors of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. 

Throughout her academic career, Avadhani has continued to work as a nurse practitioner in acute and primary care. In March 2020, she was based in a 27-bed ICU at Saint Peter's University Hospital in New Jersey when COVID made its devastating impact.

Critically ill patients quickly filled every bed. There were dire shortages of equipment and protective supplies. Ventilators and IV pumps were crammed into crowded hallways. Little was known about the nature of the virus, and nurses and doctors worked with limited PPE safety gear. "It was like walking into a war zone," she says.

"There were just so many people dying all around us," Avadhani wrote in the the online publication Healthy Women. "No matter how hard we worked to save them, so many died. One day a patient would be so improved they were able to be discharged. Then days later, they would be readmitted in far worse shape and soon after, pass away."

COVID led some nurses to burn out and leave the profession. "There was a thought that if you worked one year during COVID, it was almost equal to four years of experience, because that's how much work you put in," Avadhani says. She admits it nearly broke her, too, but in the end it made her stronger.

"Someone said to me, 'this isn’t what I signed up for,' and I understand that," she says. "But I realized that this was what I signed up for as a nurse: to help people who are suffering."

She will incorporate that hard-earned experience and understanding into her leadership at Temple. Her arrival comes at a key time for nursing education, as the nursing workforce faces critical shortages. 

“The need has never been greater,” Avadhani says. “We need to get out there and encourage our younger generations, attract great students right out of high school. We also need flexible programs so working nurses can advance their education with graduate degrees. It's our responsibility to make sure that future generations are prepared if there is another pandemic, not only the physical training but also having the mindset to deal with it."

Avadhani looks forward to the teaching and simulation possibilities that will be available in Paley Hall, now under construction as the new home of the College of Public Health. She is enthusiastic about the nursing program’s collaboration with Temple Health System. 

“The rest of the world is struggling with clinical partners, so to have this partnership is amazing,” she says. “It’s a win-win. Our students are able to have those clinical experiences, and the health system can benefit from the product of our school—our alumni—who can become highly qualified members of their nursing staff.”

COVID put tremendous strains on the nursing workforce, but it also “gave nursing an opportunity to really shine, to share with the world what we do. There are a lot of conversations about nurses being heroes, and that's where it started,” Avadhani says. She points to a recent survey showing that nurses remain the most trusted profession for Americans. "The next generation of nurses has an important task carrying on that legacy. At Temple Nursing, we're well-positioned to create the pipeline of the nursing workforce through nursing education at all levels."