The dean of the University of Washington's nursing school is leaving her post earlier than expected so an interim dean can take part in key processes.

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Marla Salmon, dean of the University of Washington School of Nursing, is leaving her position more than three months earlier than planned to allow an interim dean to become engaged in key processes that will be taking place over the next several months.

After internal strife and budget cuts, Salmon resigned in May 2011, saying she would stay until June 30 of this year. But, she said in a memo to staff last week, it is imperative an interim dean help guide the school through a “crucial transition period.”

The top-ranked School of Nursing is having to make some tough choices during a “strategic planning process” that may put some cherished programs on the chopping block as it tries to strike a balance between research and training nursing leaders, among other roles.

The nursing school and others at the UW continue to face a “budgetary free fall,” Salmon said in an interview. “Relationships between higher education and communities and their states are being recalibrated and renegotiated all over the country.”

The School of Nursing plans to launch an external search for a new dean, targeting fall 2013 as the start date for the new leader, Salmon said.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @costrom.