Caring Cohort: JBU Launches Healthcare Program

By Julie Gumm
Monday, November 24, 2014

“Do you have a nursing program?”

In the past, prospective students asked about nursing more often than any other program not in John Brown University’s catalog. The demand for nursing is real; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) estimates more than 581,500 registered nursing jobs will be created through 2018.

First Pre-nursing Class A natural fit for JBU’s service-focused students, JBU took the first steps toward creating a nursing program in 2011. Much progress has been made. This fall 35 students arrived and became the first pre-nursing cohort, working to complete their prerequisites during their freshman and sophomore years.

They come from nine states and as far away as Indonesia, Thailand and the United Kingdom.  “We have a terrific group of students,” said Dr. Ellen Odell, director of the new program. “They are diverse in their interests and goals and are excited to start taking nursing courses.

There was much to celebrate in September 2013 when JBU received prerequisite approval from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to begin creating a nursing program. It was the hardest step in the three-step process and the culmination of work that began in May 2011. 

“We have long desired to expand our programming in the health care fields,” said Dr. Ed Ericson, vice president for academic affairs. “Because of the shortage of bachelor-educated nurses, we feel creating a nursing program is a healthy move for JBU and will present a highly-sought-after option for our students.”

Three weeks after receiving approval to develop the new program, JBU announced a $6 million lead gift for a new nursing education facility and program endowment.

“We have been blessed with top-notch laboratories and specialized equipment for our science programs, but to launch a nursing program requires another level of resourcing,” said Dr. Brian Greuel, chair of the division of natural sciences. “This very generous gift will ensure our students have access to a high-tech training environment enabling them to be very well prepared to enter the nursing workforce.”

Architectural planning for the $6 million facility is well underway and groundbreaking is expected to take place in late summer or early fall 2015. The approximately 21,000 square foot facility will be built on the west side of campus between Bell Science Hall and the Balzer Technology Center, which means removing the last five Broadhurst Village duplexes. It is expected to be complete by fall 2016.

The two-story building will include three classrooms, clinic teaching space with four exam rooms, four simulation patient rooms, two health assessment labs, a computer lab, offices and study lounges.

Architect renderings of nursing buildingIn the simulation patient rooms, students will use four High Fidelity Simulators — computer-operated interactive mannequins that can blink, bleed, drool, cry, dilate their pupils, generate heart and lung rhythms and sounds, mimic breathing and more. With these simulators, students can learn to take the palpable pulse of the mannequin, as well as perform procedures such as urinary catheter insertions, childbirth and defibrillation. With two adult simulators, one pediatric simulator, and one mother-newborn simulator, JBU students will be able to respond to real-life medical scenarios artificially simulated in a safe learning environment.

The books are going high-tech too, with students using e-books for all the program’s classes. Besides increased portability and ease of information access during clinicals, e-books enable students to share notes and highlights, cross-reference concepts and vocabulary as well as follow links to case scenarios.

Fundraising has begun for another $4 million to complete the facility and program endowment.

Veteran nursing educator Odell started in January and she set right to work developing the program of study, course descriptions and outcomes and making sure that everything meets the requirements for approval from the accrediting agencies.

Assuming approval of the next step in the accreditation process, the pre-nursing students will apply for admission into the nursing program during the spring of their sophomore year and be notified of admission before that school year ends.

Graduates from nursing programs have a highly-sought-after degree in a highly-paid occupation. According to the USBLS, registered nurses earn a median salary of $66,200 per year.
Those salaries will likely increase with the need for nurses outpacing the qualified applicants. The USBLS estimates a shortage of 260,000 nurses by 2025, a result of several factors including the aging baby boomer generation and new government programs like the Affordable Care Act.

With the complex demands of today’s healthcare field, nursing education has pushed universities to graduate more healthcare workers with a BSN. Not only does holding a BSN impact a nurse’s career trajectory, but recent studies show a lower mortality rate in patients treated by bachelor-educated nurses.1

According to Dr. Robert Norwood, dean of undergraduate studies, the next step in the accreditation process occurs this spring with a campus visit by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Norwood said the hope is that the HLC will approve the program shortly thereafter. Final approval from the Arkansas State Board of Nursing would come after another campus visit shortly before the first class graduates.

“We believe a nursing program will enable more students to follow their calling and meet the needs of our community,” said Dr. Chip Pollard, JBU president. “This program will allow us to expand our university mission to train nurses to honor God and serve others.”

1(Aiken, Clarke, Cheung, Sloane & Sliber, 2003; Estabrooks, Midodzi, Cummings, Ricker & Giovanetti, 2005; Tourangeau, et al., 2006).

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