Nursing program hits 5-0
Posted: October 6, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — In the early 1960s, a typical nurse wore a white uniform, white stockings, a pillbox hat and a pin from her graduating school.
At the end of the year, she took home a salary of $5,000.
Since then, dresses have converted to pants and colored scrubs, and a nurse’s salary can top $120,000 a year. And it’s no longer a career choice for women.
Whatever the changes, Shenandoah University’s nursing program has navigated and graduated students through them all. This year, the program celebrates its 50th anniversary.
SU has 444 undergraduate and graduate nursing students. About 180 of them are second-degree accelerated students who came from other careers to obtain a degree in nursing.
“A nurse is a person who can really impact another human being’s life in ways most other disciplines and professions cannot,” said Kathy Ganske, director of Shenandoah’s Division of Nursing. “They’re the first line of defense and advocates for the patient and family.”
In 1962, Shenandoah University assumed the responsibility for Winchester Memorial Hospital’s School of Nursing, becoming the fourth school in Virginia to offer an associate’s degree in the field.
Seven students were admitted to the first class, and classes were held in the hospital.
In 1964, the first class of four students graduated.
Over the years, the nursing department moved from Cooley Hall on the SU campus to nearby Racey Hall, and then to the John Kerr Building on Cameron Street in downtown Winchester.
In 1990, SU and Lord Fairfax Community College began a joint Licensed Practical Nursing and Associate of Science in Nursing program.
In 1996, SU launched its Masters of Science nursing program, and the Division of Nursing moved from the John Kerr Building to the Health Professions Building on the campus of Winchester Medical Center.
In 1997, the program received pre-accreditation status for the first nurse-midwifery program in Virginia and admitted students that fall.
A traditional four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program was introduced in fall 2000. The associate’s degree program was phased out in 2001.
In 2008, SU admitted its first class in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
In addition to programs offered in Winchester, SU has provided nursing programs at its Northern Virginia Campus in Leesburg since 2003.
Over the years, the role of the nurse has changed significantly, becoming more multi-dimensional.
“Many moons ago, it was the doctor said it, and we did it,” said Christine Newby, assistant professor in nursing. “Now, it’s a more patient-centered collaborative type of care.”
Many nurses now work in places other than a hospital, including clinics, doctors’ offices, schools, prisons and mental health facilities. Some go on to other careers in which they can use their nursing expertise, such as pharmaceutical sales, law and teaching.
“Things need to change,” Ganske said. “The public still thinks of the nurse as giving shots or emptying bedpans.”
Nurses have also been required to acquaint themselves with new machines and medicines and gains in pharmacology. People now live longer with a variety of diseases, and nurses must learn how to treat increased and complex cases.
“They have to have much stronger critical thinking and reasoning skills than ever before,” Newby said.
More men have joined the profession as well, although they make up just 6 percent of nurses nationwide. Most men don’t stay by the bedside, but move on to administrative or critical-care positions.
One thing that has not changed through the years is the element of caring and service to others.
Elwin Ossom, a 24-year-old undergraduate in the nursing program, realized she wanted to major in the field because it involved working with people — never mind that it requires spending 24 hours a week in lectures and the hospital to reach that goal.
“I just love it,” she said. “It’s my passion. I just want to help people.”
Leslie Purcell, 21, spends the same hours studying as Ossom and can’t wait till she becomes an emergency room nurse.
“It’s fun and entertaining,” she said. “It’s move-and-go and a lot of unknowns.
“I didn’t do it for the money,” she added. “It’s nice to know you’ll have a job, but I didn’t choose nursing for it. I love working with people.”
“Nursing faculty shortage is one of the most serious problems we’re facing the next couple of years,” Ganske said.
At the University of Virginia School of Nursing, 11 professors recently retired.
SU’s faculty — 29 full-time and 50 part-time instructors — will have seven retirements soon.
The shortage is attributed to many factors.
Faculty members usually need a doctorate, but of the 3 million nurses in the country, less than 1 percent have the degree, according to an August National Public Radio report. Often, nurses want to go straight into practice.
In addition, the average salary of a nurse practitioner is $91,310. By contrast, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners reported in March 2011 that a nursing educator with a master’s degree earned an average annual salary of $72,028.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, U.S. nursing schools turned away 75,587 qualified applicants in 2011 due to an insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space and budget constraints.
Nurses and educators from the baby-boomer generation are also expected to retire in large numbers within the next 10 years, leaving not only a shortage of teachers but also nurses.
Despite the expected shortage, SU’s nursing program hopes to expand by 50 percent during the next 10 years and to move into a new health sciences building on the campus.
Although the challenges continue, leaders at SU and across the nation plan to move forward in their efforts to improve programs and educate students in the ever-changing profession.
“At the end of the day, [nursing] touches millions of lives and is the most trusted profession,” Ganske said.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com