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Combining the Art of Healing and the Power of Education 

Feb 20, 2024 By Queens University Communications

JoAndrea Costner, Ed.D., MSN, RN, CNE, wears many hats – educator, clinician, mentor – but her heart lies at the crossroads of caring for patients and shaping the next generation of nurses. A Charlotte native, Costner earned her undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees at UNC Charlotte. After graduating, she began her career at a local hospital, honing her skills in medical, surgical, and detox units. While she excelled in her role, an unfulfilled yearning for something more propelled her toward a different path. 

In 2015, Costner embarked on a new adventure when she joined Queens University’s Presbyterian School of Nursing. Uncertain about what the future would hold, she began her new role with both apprehension and determination. “While I didn’t share the same ethnic background as some of my colleagues, I did see diversity in my nursing students. I took advantage of this opportunity to connect with all my students, regardless of their race or ethnicity,” said Costner. 

After earning her doctorate in 2019, Costner assumed the leadership position of chair of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in August 2020.  Nearly six months later, she would also embrace the responsibilities of the clinical education coordinator position. “The trust bestowed upon me by leadership to represent my colleagues was humbling,” she reflects. “Queens’ commitment to honoring faculty, including myself, has been a constant source of motivation throughout my years here.” 

Costner has witnessed a remarkable transformation of Queens University over the past decade. “The campus reflects the growing diversity of Charlotte itself,” she observes, noting an influx of different perspectives among leadership, faculty, and students. This shift, she believes, enriches the learning environment and prepares graduates for an increasingly interconnected world. 

Costner’s passion for community health resonates deeply with her students. As future nurses, they understand the profound impact social determinants have on individual and collective well-being. Their education actively integrates these principles through required community health projects. Some students partner with clinics catering to underserved communities, gaining firsthand experience with navigating healthcare disparities. Others work in public schools, witnessing the varying resources available across different socioeconomic backgrounds. 

While the legacy of medical research on marginalized populations continues to cast a shadow of distrust within Black and brown communities, there’s a growing movement towards increased representation in healthcare, with more people of color becoming physicians and nurses. Costner believes this shift is crucial, stating, “Shared identity can foster trust and understanding between patients and providers, potentially leading to better health outcomes for people of color.” 

When asked about this year’s theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” Costner paused thoughtfully. “For Black people,” she remarked, “embracing art can be a powerful form of self-care, offering a respite from the everyday challenges and stresses we often face.”  

She finds personal solace in the uplifting melodies of gospel music by artists like Yolanda Adams and Crystal Aiken, the humor and relatable narratives in Tyler Perry’s films, and the timeless wisdom and beauty found in Maya Angelou’s poetry. These artistic mediums, she emphasizes, provide not just entertainment, but an opportunity to connect with her heritage, celebrate her resilience, and find moments of peace and joy. 

Costner encourages aspiring nurses to embark on a journey of self-discovery before committing to a career in health care. “Helping people is noble, but nursing offers something deeper,” she explains. “It’s the privilege of guiding individuals through vulnerable moments, fostering healing, and witnessing their strength and resilience firsthand. It’s a transformative experience, not just for the patients you serve, but for yourself as well.”