A Stitch in Time: Nursing Dean revolutionizes academic scheduling

The crash cart. Color-coded IV lines. Neonatal phototherapy.

Some of the most influential medical inventions of the last century were created by nurses.

Because of their unique and irreplaceable position within the medical system, nurses often identify needs and create solutions where no one else can. VCU School of Nursing Dean and Professor Jean Giddens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN — known nationwide for her influence on nursing education and developing innovative teaching and learning strategies — is one of these remarkable inventors.

The problem Giddens wanted to solve was clear: course scheduling. But the solution was a few years in the making.

“While serving as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing, it never ceased to amaze me how much time we were losing just to the logistics of academic scheduling every semester,” she says. “There wasn’t a way to track requirements across multiple degree programs, or even to easily project class sizes and capacity concerns. That’s how I knew there was a need for a software that could do all that.”

Invented by Giddens alongside the Richmond-based technology consulting firm SingleStone, coursFACTS is poised to become a gamechanger for universities. An integrative database that allows for prospective course planning and a multi-year outlook, coursFACTS is designed to synthesize multiple plans of studies across four nursing degree programs. The software also takes into account faculty members’ teaching, committee work, clinical practice, and research-related activities.

The result is a scheduling system that saves administrators countless hours every semester, freeing them up to focus on their many other responsibilities.

“We developed coursFACTS with input from our associate dean for academic affairs, program directors, department chairs, and schedulers, and that collaboration was crucial,” says Giddens. “What we were able to create fulfills the needs of so many different stakeholders.”

Guided and supported by Innovation Gateway, Giddens and SingleStone created software that’s intuitive, user-friendly, and fast to learn. CoursFACTS is so easy to operate that the VCU School of Nursing implemented the software in January 2020. As a larger emphasis is put on developing more person-centered practices in the workplace, coursFACTS enables faculty and administrators to spend less time managing logistics of classes, and more time focused on educating the next generation of healthcare professionals. And with coursFACTS now available to other universities, educators nationwide will be able to reap the benefits of a VCU-born, groundbreaking software.