Q&A With Carol Ladden, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing speaks with Carol Ladden, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Below, she shares her thoughts on both nursing in general and the specific opportunities available at Penn.

How do you think someone should begin their search for a nursing school? What factors are most important for a student to consider in terms of applying to a nursing program?

Everything is online now. But individuals need to be very thoughtful about it. Use their networks. If you're a high school student speak with your guidance counselor, attend college fairs, and do what you need to do to gather information. You really have to know yourself and what you want. You have to have a sense of where you want to with your career goals. What are the goals and values of the institution?

UPenn has always looked for the leaders. The people who really want to take charge of the profession. If you look at our tagline "care to change the world," caring is very complex now. Do you want to be challenged?

What kind of preparation in particular do you look for in your Bachelor's of Nursing candidates? Master's? Etc.?

The high school students need to meet our university requirements. We do like them to have a rigorous high school curriculum. Someone who is showing us academically where they are coming from and their interests. We have 19 different master majors here, we have specialties across the lifespan. Usually, master's students have a sense of what population they want to work with and where they see their careers going.

What do you think makes for a successful nursing student?

That's always the piece of the puzzle. We are looking for someone who is well rounded. Who is interested in working with people, but intellectually also wants to be challenged. They want to be grounded in the sciences. I know we're looking for people who take care of themselves too, so that they can care for others.

Someone who is motivated personally and professional.

What are the top three reasons to pursue a nursing a degree right now?

What's so different now are the opportunities and the options within the profession. We have 19 different majors. There's an opportunity to work in a variety of settings. We're going to see more emphasis in terms of community outreach and primary care. The other opportunity will be for people who want to develop nurse science. We're looking for talented people also to teach.

What are three things potential nursing students need to know before they apply? Three potential challenges?

I think it's differentiating the roles of health care providers and how each profession their delivery of care differently. Anyone who's looking at this should get exposure somehow. I see it as a values alignment-they see what these individuals are doing in everyday practice and it more or less aligns with their own personal values.

What I can tell you is that there is more recognition for the profession now. People have had the opportunity to be cared for by nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses, so there's a realization that this profession can deliver the care needed. It does more or less complement what's happening in health care-more collaborative, interdisciplinary care and nurses are well suited for that.

How can someone make their application to Penn stand out?

It's their ability to tell their story that distinguishes them as an individual. It's not what an applicant might think we want to hear. It's about who you are, where you want to go with your career, and what Penn can provide for you.

What do you see for the future of nursing? What kind of specialties will be most needed? What the specialties that are/will be the most sought after at Penn?

It's just going to reflect what's happening with society. We're all looking at the aging population, but we're also looking at what's happening with our children now with the issues with obesity. There's a lot of emphasis on healthy living and changing behavior. Nurses do a lot of education so we have to think about what are the models of care that we need so that our population remains healthy.

Can you comment on any recent developments to the Penn nursing program? How is Penn responding to the changing demands of health care?

The effort has been to take us not only from own local community but more of a global perspective. The health care needs are global. The health care needs of the world are out there for all of us to address. Simulation is fully integrated into our curriculum here. We were one of the first schools that had a simulation lab, but I think one of the things that distinguishes are school is that we work collaboratively with our health system. We've also started to integrate an electronic medical record system for our students and we're going to expand that across the program.

We were just awarded the best school for men in nursing by the American assembly for men in nursing. It's the second time we won the award.

There's a lot of involvement if students wish to become involved in research. We do a lot with health promotion, a lot of with gerontology and health care policy and outcomes. One of the hallmarks might be Dr. Mary Nailor's work on transitional care.

In general, why should someone consider the Penn nursing program?

I was talking with a group of students who were getting ready to graduate. One of them mention she felt very accomplished but it was on several levels. Personally she had been challenged. Academically she had been challenged and clinically she was at a different level. Here it's an individual who truly wants to take the profession to the next level. We're looking for those talented people who are more or less committed to changing our health care system.

Any other advice or thoughts for students applying to Penn?

People should really think about what they want and the type of environment they will thrive in. That's what they need to aim for. They should have an overall great experience.