By Eric Baxter, COCE Advisor
There is no simple answer to who is a Southern New Hampshire University nursing program student, according to Nursing and Health Professions Executive Director Sherrie Palmieri. Like the field, the students are diverse and come from different backgrounds, have obtained different levels of education, and have different goals and ambitions.
They do share a common goal: the desire to be better at their chosen profession. And at the core of that profession is better patient safety and quality.
“We’re teaching them to provide care at the highest levels and achieve the best practices in nursing and nursing leadership,” Palmieri said.
SNHU took a significant step forward in helping its students reach new levels of expertise and professionalism when its nursing programs were accredited by the Commission on Collegiate and Nursing Education in November, an achievement two years in the making.
“Our undergraduate and graduate nursing programs enable nurses to continue working while seeking the knowledge they need to advance in their profession,” said Associate Vice President of Graduate Marketing & Student Recruitment Jennifer Brady. “CCNE accreditation further validates that our programs are of the highest quality.”
The CCNE evaluation team reviewed SNHU’s program mission and goals and what students are expected to learn by the end of their degree programs. The commission also examined how the university uses resources and integrates and administers programs. CCNE monitors accredited nursing programs to ensure nursing academic standards continue to be met and programs are continually improved.
Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Marketing & Student Recruitment Bill Hartglass has characterized CCNE’s recognition as providing enhanced credibility for all of our healthcare and nursing offerings.
Advancing the Profession …
SNHU sought accreditation to demonstrate commitment to the highest academic standards for its Nursing and Health Professions programs. Achievement of CCNE accreditation demonstrates this commitment, Palmieri said.
The goal is to create seamless academic pathways for nurses to continue their nursing education from an associate degree in nursing to Bachelor and Master of Science programs in nursing. SNHU is also developing a graduate nurse educator program to help address the growing shortage of nursing faculty.
“There is a shortage of nursing faculty right now,” Palmieri said. “This program will help fill that shortage.”
While firmly rooted in 21st-century technology, Palmieri said the nursing programs remain clearly focused on patients and patient care. Both the BSN and MSN programs require students to have a current nursing license. Requiring students to be licensed ensures that the students have the foundation required for success in the program and that the programs build upon prior learning.
… and Its Practitioners
MSN in Clinical Leadership student Gretchen Forsley, who has worked as a nurse in varying capacities since 1985, said a capable nurse is one who can bring his or her experience and education together on the job.
“I think any nurse will be better for broader education,” Forsley said.
It was the desire to “do good” that is fueling her push to earn her master’s. For Forsley, “doing good” encompasses her peers as well as her patients. When she started in nursing, she and her fellow nurses received the most orders and had the fewest freedoms in the healthcare industry. While some of that view of nurses as low-level healthcare workers still exists, the field and profession are in flux, Forsley said.
Forsley consistently dips into her university education for answers to issues, to puzzle through patient problems, to navigate healthcare challenges, and to provide for a more complete understanding of what she is doing and why.
The demands on nurses continue to grow. A recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine about the future of nursing envisioned nurses as a having a more critical role in patient care, moving from one-dimensional players to multi-dimensional managers of frontline healthcare forces.
For Forsley, who knows about nursing’s demands on body, soul and time, SNHU’s online format has become her preferred form of education.
“I was worried at first about staying connected with my peers in the class,” she said. “But I found it was easy to adapt to once I got used to it.”
Now she said she can attend class on her time. As she is a working mother of four, this ability means the difference between being a good student and a great student.
“I don’t have to rush to class to sit in a classroom,” she said. “Now I can do the work when I’m ready and I can get the most out of it.”
The clinical leader program will help Forsley advance to higher levels within healthcare, levels that could enable her to help other nurses. Following that, she has her eyes set on a doctorate in nursing and possibly a teaching position. But her roots and desires will always remain with the patients.
Palmieri sees opportunities opening for students who graduate from SNHU’s accredited nursing programs, and is particularly excited the university was the first in the U.S. to offer a patient safety and quality graduate program.
“This is a very innovative program,” she said, “and we’re very excited about what’s happening.”