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Nursing program keeps growing

By Sally Jongsma

Sophomore Emily Hiemstra repositions a

Sophomore Emily Hiemstra repositions a "patient" in the Nursing Skills Lab as Becky Ritsema waits her turn to practice basic nursing skills.

Dordt College expects to be awarding its own B.S.N. (bachelor of science in nursing) beginning next year. In the fall of 2006, students enrolled in the nursing program will do all of their coursework on campus, traveling to Sioux City only for their clinicals. And when they graduate, they will receive a B.S.N. from Dordt College rather than a health sciences major from Dordt and a B.S.N. from Briar Cliff University.

In September, the Iowa Board of Nursing granted interim approval for Dordt to offer a B.S.N. degree completion program beginning in the fall of 2006. While the change doesn’t dramatically alter the program, there are some significant and beneficial differences, says Pam Hulstein, director of nursing and head of the new nursing department.

“It will be a more seamless program,” Hulstein says, adding that it gives an opportunity for the department to develop its Christian approach to nursing and draw on Dordt’s “Educational Framework” document as it hones its curriculum.

The program retains its 1-2-1 structure, with students enrolled at Dordt College in years one and four and at St. Luke’s College in Sioux City in years two and three. However, all coursework during years two and three will now be done on Dordt’s campus instead of St. Luke’s. St. Luke’s staff will come to Dordt to teach the core nursing courses, but now students will register for Dordt College anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and nutrition courses, taking them from Dordt faculty rather than faculty provided by St. Luke’s College. An additional nursing instructor will also be hired to help teach the B.S.N. courses during the fourth year.

Students practice giving injections, making beds, changing dressings, setting up IVs, and many other basic nursing skills in the Nursing Skills Lab.

Students practice giving injections, making beds, changing dressings, setting up IVs, and many other basic nursing skills in the Nursing Skills Lab.

Although students will still travel to St. Luke’s in Sioux City for their clinicals during their second and third years, Hulstein estimates that rather than commuting daily, students will go one or two days per week in the first semester, two to three days during the second and third semesters, and three days in the final semester. During their fourth year, in which they focus more on community health, nursing majors will gain clinical experience in several regional institutions and agencies

Interest in and enrollment in the nursing program continues to grow. This year Hulstein has twenty-four first-year students who have indicated interest in the program. She expects at least twenty of them to continue in the program. Seven third-year students received an R.N. from St. Luke’s in May, so the program is growing. At present there are fifty-three students in the major, and Hulstein is trying to structure the new program so that local R.N.s who wish to complete coursework for their B.S.N. can do so.

The numbers are gratifying to Hulstein, not only because it is good for the Dordt program but also because of the intense shortage of nurses in her profession. The needs assessment section of the proposal that Dordt College submitted to the Iowa Board of Nursing notes that the shortage is expected to grow as baby boomers age and their need for health care grows. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the country will need one million new and replacement nurses by 2012, and Registered Nursing is at the top of the U.S. Labor Department’s list for projected job growth through 2012.

In addition to its shortage in the numbers of nurses, the profession is calling for more highly educated nurses. In some cases hospitals and health centers are requiring a B.S.N. instead of an R.N. Hulstein is excited about the opportunity the interim approval gives and confident that the nursing department will “provide its students with a caring and nurturing education and lifelong serviceable insight” that will prepare them to be responsible ethical and professional nurses. The program rests on the belief that people are created with physical, spiritual, and social dimensions and need to be treated with love and care. Its goal is to nurture a commitment to lifelong learning in its graduates.

At present students in Dordt’s nursing program come from across North America.

According to Hulstein they have no trouble finding jobs locally or nationally, including jobs in Canada.