Shira Birnbaum

Associate Professor of Practice
  • Health Professions Education

About Me

I teach in the graduate program in Health Professions Education, a department in Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences. I am a psychiatric nurse, educator, ethnographer, and policy analyst with more than 25 years of experience in inpatient, outpatient, educational and criminal-justice settings. I graduated magna cum laude with Honors in Anthropology from Barnard College, Columbia University, and was the Shell Fellow in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting at New York University. My PhD, in Educational Foundations and Policy Studies, is from Florida State University. I have developed curriculum materials, learning assessments, and program evaluations for hospitals, social-service agencies, and arts organizations. My writing has appeared in mass-print media as well as in peer-reviewed academic journals, and I am the author of two academic books.

What I Teach

I teach advanced and introductory-level graduate courses in Health Professions Education. I also advise dissertations.

Research/Creative Activities

I am a qualitative researcher. My early published work addressed issues of race and gender in higher education and the interplay of social structures and individual agency in the creation of social institutions. My current work continues to engage with critical theory, addressing organizational dynamics, communication, and narrative-making in complex clinical settings. My most recent book, Therapeutic Communication in Mental Health Nursing: Aesthetic and Metaphoric Processes in the Engagement with Challenging Patients (Routledge 2017), is about the intersection of nursing and the humanities. It was awarded first place in the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards for 2017 in the Psychiatric and Mental Health category. (You can read about it on my bio page at Routledge Featured Authors.) My previous book, Law and Order and School: Daily Life in an Educational Program for Juvenile Delinquents (Temple University Press 2001), was an ethnography about justice-involved adolescents and their school experiences.