This article appears in the Winter 2023 Edition of Curry Magazine.
By Jana F. Brown
Sitting on Dr. Julie Grady’s desk is an object that makes her beam with pride and symbolizes her work over the last decade: the Excellence in Academic Advising Award. Grady was named the recipient of this recognition last May.
“It is such an honor because it’s voted on by the students. They said I cared, and that means more to me than anything else,” says Grady, who has been a full-time faculty member since 2014.
As an associate professor in the School of Nursing; maternity and pediatric coordinator for the undergraduate and accelerated nursing programs; chair of the Educational Outcomes Committee; and interim co-director of the Master of Science in Nursing Program, Grady is first and foremost a clinical educator.
Her work to promote the health and wellness of mothers and infants begins in Curry’s classrooms, where she helps nurture and educate the next generation of nurses. She emphasizes to her students the importance of assessment and diagnostic skills “so they can plan for the care they’re delivering,” but she said that’s not the most significant focus of her lessons.
“I want them to come out of school with all heart,” says Grady. “It’s the caring, the love that goes into nursing that matters. We are scientists and we are clinicians, but if we can’t be that loving, kind, compassionate individual, we won’t stay in the field.”
Grady has the résumé to back up the knowledge she is imparting to her students. This includes more than 24 years of clinical experience caring for mothers and newborns through a family-centered lens; credentials as a board-certified lactation consultant and clinical nurse leader; Lamaze-certified childbirth educator; certified infant massage instructor; and a Ph.D. in health professions education from Simmons University, where her doctoral dissertation focused on healthcare providers’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors toward women with perinatal substance use disorder. Until the end of 2019, Grady was still working part-time as a labor and delivery nurse at Tobey Hospital in Wareham, Massachusetts.
After graduating from a hospital-based nursing school in 1996, Grady pursued both her B.S. in nursing at Curry (1998) and then her M.S. in nursing (2010) at which time she was hired as a clinical instructor. As a student, she appreciated the supportive and innovative environment of Curry’s nursing program, and she was eager to join a knowledgeable and collaborative team.
Today, Grady also takes her credentials on the road as a speaker and valued consultant in her field. She serves on the board of directors for the March of Dimes (she was nominated for the 2016 “Nurse of The Year” award) and was an expert panelist for the Skin-to-Skin Clinical Guidelines Project, which took place in October in Iceland.
Grady has worked with the affiliated Healthy Children Project (HCP) on appraisal of the group’s clinical and methodical processes. The HCP is the largest national provider of lactation management training for healthcare providers and offers continuing education programs for new and experienced practitioners.
Grady’s most recent consultation with the HCP was serving as the psychometrician for a collaboration with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA). She explains that a psychometrician is a content expert tasked with evaluating and devising standardized aptitude tests. The ICEA launched its family counselor exam in January 2022 to test providers on their knowledge of the first 1,000 days surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the initial development of the child. Grady’s analysis evaluates the reliability and validity of the exam, studying how individuals score on the test and determining the questions for future exams.
“I cannot say enough about Julie Grady,” says Dr. Michelle McMahon, dean of Curry’s School of Nursing. “She is a scholar, educator, and strong advocate for maternal health and is truly the best example of what a professional nurse should be. Not only is her recent scholarly work building nursing science and contributing to best practices of maternity nursing care, but equally impactful is her unwavering passion to promote healthy moms, babies, and families.”
Grady teaches from a family-centered perspective, meaning that the parents, grandparents, siblings, and any other extended family members who may be involved in a child’s care are included in her instruction. While specializing in labor and delivery nursing may appeal to those who are drawn to adorable infants, there is much more to it, Grady reminds, including supporting those who are considering adoption, managing patients with substance use disorders, and educating new mothers on choices from lactation to umbilical cord care to unanticipated medical issues.
“It’s not just the parents that need to be educated,” says Grady. “Whatever the family looks like, that’s how you support them. Those are the pieces I try to impart to my students.”