This semester’s first-ever batch of Southern Utah University nursing students will likely graduate from an accredited program and will meet an industry standard in equal or less time than students elsewhere.
After nearly 30 years of cooperation with the nursing program at Weber State University, SUU has created its own Department of Nursing with an innovative curriculum – a juxtaposition from the traditional curriculum at WSU.
The program takes a hands-on approach by engaging students in group activities and case studies rather than primarily classroom lectures, says Dr. Karla Dalley, director of program management and evaluation and associate professor of nursing. One of the many new learning resources is virtual clinical excursions, which allow students to perform procedures and make decisions on virtual patients in a virtual hospital.
“This curriculum is very effective,” Dalley says. “I can really see the influence it has on their decision making . . . They are much different than students who are learning just the technical skills.”
The Department of Nursing offers a baccalaureate nursing degree in just four semesters, which Department Chair Donna Lister calls a “desirable standard nationwide.”
A nurse for 23 years—and counting, herself, Lister continues, “The exciting thing about our bachelor degree program is that once the students are accepted, they take the same number of semesters doing their nursing degree as they would doing an associate degree program. That’s an attractive thing about our nursing program.”
The program encourages associate or diploma RNs to get their baccalaureate degree, as well. “It is really important to the profession because that is the level of education that, for example, IHC would really like,” Lister explains. “which just informed its employees that they won’t receive an advancement if they don’t have their BSNs.”
Harry Brown, director of public relations of Valley View Medical Center in Cedar City and member of the SUU Nursing Advisory Board, reports that he and colleagues in his industry are looking forward to seeing their industry, particularly in the southern Utah region, benefit directly from this differentiated program at their “home” University. He believes that the more efficient timeframe in which the BSN curriculum will be relayed, on top of the enhanced knowledge and experience graduates will enter the workplace with, will solidify SUU’s nursing in the upper layer of quality nursing preparation programs. “Students are going to come out much more qualified,” Brown states. “What’s being done now with the BSN program is absolutely super! It is certainly going to put VVMC in a comfortable position as far as sufficient staffing and giving excellent healthcare are concerned.”
In addition to a quick, innovative program, the program will likely be accredited before this semester’s class graduates in May 2006. The accrediting body will ensure the program is following its own procedures and will measure how well it interacts with SUU and its procedures, Dalley says. Establishing policy, which was the biggest hurdle, Dalley says, was a maintainable process because the faculty in the program were willing to work together.
“This university is so lucky to start a program and have a truly qualified faculty already in place,” she says. “The faculty has really pulled together. I just can’t give them enough credit.”
A celebration in the spring, on April 16, will highlight the profession and the new program at SUU. Students and members of the community are encouraged to attend. Relay races, entertainment, food and information about nurses in the Iron County Area will be part of the festivities. Marjean Allen, director of Student Health Services in the University’s Wellness Center, is working closely with the Nursing Advisory Board to plan the spring nursing celebration. She explains that the event is being held to raise money for nursing scholarships, too. The location and time will be finalized soon.
For more information about the nursing program or application information, call the Nursing Department at 586-7915 or visit its website at http://www.suu.edu/sci/nursing.
Written by Tasha Williams, senior communication/political science major from North Salt Lake, Utah