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SDSU distinguished nursing professor named academy fellow

During her career, Margaret Hegge, a distinguished professor of nursing at South Dakota State University, has earned a reputation as an ethics scholar, a Nightingale scholar and a sought-after consultant in the area of nursing curriculum.

Soon she will take that expertise to the American Academy of Nurses — a select group of nurse leaders in education, management, practice, policy and research — with her selection as an academy fellow.

She will be inducted during the academy’s 39th annual meeting and conference on Oct. 13 in Washington, D.C.

“It’s sort of humbling to join a group like this and there’s some responsibility to rise to their level,” said Hegge, who has been on the SDSU faculty since 1969 and is based at University Center in Sioux Falls. “I’ll be able to join in the conversation with some really good thinkers.”

To be eligible for the honor, Hegge had to be nominated by two current fellows. Her nominations came from Sandra Bunkers, former associate dean for graduate studies in the SDSU College of Nursing, and Judith Miller, dean of the University of Missouri—Columbia College of Nursing.

“Dr. Hegge is highly respected as an educator and leader who has shaped the face of nursing in South Dakota, the region and the nation,” Miller said.

Miller noted Hegg’s unique design for a Ph.D.-level ethics course that starts each module focused on a work of literature or a painting.

As an example, in her ethics class Hegge uses Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper,” a novel about a child raised as a spare parts reservoir for her sick, older sibling.

“That brings up all kinds of issues about parenting and human creation,” Hegge said. “It opens the students’ minds to think about the bigger issues that are at play.”

Hegge’s own mind was opened to the value and dignity of nursing through her 35-year study of Florence Nightingale.

“Florence Nightingale is my hero,” Hegge said. “She had unbelievable courage, fortitude and foresight.”

Nightingale left a life of privilege to serve society’s least fortunate, starting a nursing service during the Crimean War to care for British soldiers.

“The soldiers were the lowest of the low,” Hegge said of class distinctions at the time. 

“She cared for them like they were royalty.”

Hegge lists Nightingale’s many accomplishments in fields as varied as statistics, hospital architecture, public health policy and midwifery.

Through her teachings about Nightingale, Hegge said she offers students this lesson: “Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. Push the boundaries for better care.”

Hegge’s work as a Nightingale scholar led to another recent honor when her article, “The Lingering Presence of the Nightingale Legacy,” was selected by the editorial board of the Nursing Science Quarterly for the Sage Publishers Award for Best Paper in the publication in 2011.

“In the article, I’m taking the Nightingale concepts and comparing them to what’s happening today,” Hegge said. “Nightingale was a visionary whose work and ideals still reverberate today.”