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Senior nurses will be first to earn B.S.N accreditation from Dordt

By Sally Jongsma

Margriet Greidanus and Erin Cooper expect to be part of the first class of nursing students to graduate in May with a B.S.N. (Bachelor of Science in nursing) degree from Dordt College. Cooper and Greidanus like the idea of having “B.S.N.” printed on their Dordt diploma rather than on one from another school.

Senior Erin Cooper spends time each week doing a community health practicum at the Sioux Center Cardiac Center.  She helps monitor patients' progress and assists them with rehabilitation activities.

Senior Erin Cooper spends time each week doing a community health practicum at the Sioux Center Cardiac Center. She helps monitor patients' progress and assists them with rehabilitation activities.

That may be partly because they came into the program a year or more after they came to college and felt attached to Dordt before they began their nursing training. Greidanus, who comes from Alberta, Canada, entered college as an elementary education major, but two years into the program she found she was not happy with her choice. She has always been interested in biology and how the human body works and, since both her mom and sister are nurses, the switch was natural one. Added to that, she lived with nursing students at the time and their enthusiasm influenced her. In her junior year, she switched majors. She will have been at Dordt for six years by the time she graduates, but it’s been worth the extra time, Greidanus says. And because of the way the program is set up, with students receiving their R.N. from St. Luke’s after their third year in the program, she now works as a nurse for twenty hours per week at a local hospital.

Cooper had no interest in pursuing nursing before three years ago—even though she had worked as a hospital aide during summers while in high school. She came to Dordt considering a major in English, art, or business, but says the Lord closed doors in those areas and opened them in nursing. Despite the fact that she describes nursing as a demanding major, she says her love for it has continued to grow as she’s gone through the program.

“I love working with people at hard times in their lives,” she says, noting that her favorite part of the profession is where nursing meets social work. “It’s a lot of work and you have to want it and love it, but it’s rewarding,” she says.

Cooper appreciates the high standards of the joint Dordt College/St. Luke’s program. She says that her friends in nursing programs in her home state of Wisconsin have been impressed with what she tells them about her program.

Although nursing students have graduated from Dordt for the past few years, they previously graduated with a health sciences degree from Dordt, an R.N. from St. Luke’s College of Nursing, and a B.S.N. from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City. This year brought changes: Dordt began teaching its own B.S.N. courses, the health sciences major transitioned to a nursing major, and students now take most of their St. Luke’s coursework on campus, only traveling to Sioux City for their clinicals. The department also added another instructor this year: Professor Kate Vander Veen joined Program Director Pam Hulstein. Hulstein and Vander Veen bring varied and extensive experience to the program. Vander Veen is an advanced practice registered nurse. Her nursing experiences include flight nursing, healthcare informatics, and family nurse practitioner. Hulstein is an advanced practice registered nurse specializing in women’s health. Her nursing experiences include medical-surgical and obstetrics. Both have served in other inpatient and outpatient roles as well.

The road to B.S.N. accreditation, as might be expected, is a time-consuming but worthwhile journey. The B.S.N. degree, while not required for working as an R.N., is sought after by employers and essential for further nursing education.

As chair of the department, Hulstein bore much of the responsibility for preparing the self-study report required by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the independent accrediting agency for nursing programs. Through its accreditation process CCNE tries to hold nursing programs accountable by ensuring that they have appropriate mission statements, goals, and outcomes. CCNE evaluates how well programs do what they say they want to do, and they assess how well programs meet accrediting standards. They also list programs that are accredited and ensure that these programs continue to improve and keep up with professional standards.

A team of people from the CCNE came to campus for a site visit in December to speak with people involved in the program and to gather the information they needed to recommend Dordt’s program for accreditation.

“There were no ‘non-compliances’ in any of the twenty-three elements required by the agency,” says Hulstein, who spent more than a year gathering the evidence and evaluative information requested by the Commission. She expects to hear the official decision of the CCNE in late April.

Although accreditation means the B.S.N. will be a Dordt degree, the Dordt College nursing program continues to be a cooperative effort with St.Luke’s College of Nursing in Sioux City. Students spend their first year on Dordt’s campus taking general education courses required for a bachelor’s degree. In years two and three they take coursework on campus and travel to St. Luke’s in Sioux City for their clinical experience. In year four, they take their remaining general education core courses and the nursing courses required for the B.S.N.—all offered by Hulstein and Vander Veen.

“Adding the B.S.N. has been good for the program,” says Hulstein. “It gives us the opportunity to more fully base the program on the four curricular coordinates spelled out in the Educational Framework of Dordt College.”

These latest changes in the program are part of a growing and evolving process, one that offered a cost-effective way for Dordt College to begin offering nursing to its students and help meet the pressing need for nurses in our society. The evolving program continues to offer students an exciting option in nursing training.

Both Greidanus and Cooper are thankful for the opportunity they've had to be engaged in thoughtful Christian reflection and examination of important foundational and ethical issues in their courses. They appreciate being part of a reputable and established program through St. Luke’s. And they also like having their R.N. degree after their third year, enabling them to work part-time during their final year or volunteer with community-based health programs.