DSU nursing program celebrates 50 years
Today's nurses are graduating with a greater knowledge of nursing skills than ever before, and even the fashions have evolved over the years. Dickinson State University Department of Nursing faculty and students reflected on those changes as they celebrate the department's 50th anniversary.
"To become a nurse is so hard, first you must get a degree and then pass the national exam to become licensed as a nurse," said Dr. Mary Anne Marsh, chair of the Department of Nursing.
"With our Associate of Applied Science in Practical Nursing degree, you become an LPN. Then with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, you take the national exam and are licensed as registered nurse."
DSU's two nursing programs are uniquely laddered, unlike any other program in North Dakota or likely in the United States. Each program is two years in length. Both are approved by the North Dakota Board of Nursing and are accredited by the Accreditation Commision for Education in Nursing, she said.
The DSU nursing program currently has an enrollment of 69 in the AASPN program and 33 in the BSN program.
"One of the beautiful things about our program, is students can work as an LPN while going to school to pursue the advanced degree. It gives them experience where in some areas of the country, they only hire nurses with experience. Our graduates get two years of experience as an LPN and graduate as an RN—they are highly sought after."
The nurses still learn hands-on patient care as emulated by the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. During fall semester clinicals at Klinefelter Hall, freshmen students were learning the basics of giving a bed bath, changing bedding and even brushing dentures.
Student Monica Corliss commented, "You go to the dentist for a cleaning and it's the best feeling on earth. Cleaning dentures isn't too bad—I'm a hands-on learner. When its hands on, that's when it really sets it in."
Nursing students practice their critical thinking skills in the simulation lab just down the hall. Computerized mannequins are programmed for a myriad of health issues.
'Mr. Hal' recently joined the mannequin family with advanced programming capabilities.
"What's awesome about them, is you make the patient have a particular diagnosis and he can get better or worse, depending on the computer program," said Marsh. "We videotape and sit down afterwards to evaluate. The faculty isn't telling students what to do—they have to think for themselves."
50 years ago
Fifty years ago, nursing education programs opened around the United States to care for the injured and disabled veterans returning from World War II. The Holy Cross Sisters started a School of Practical Nursing at St. Joseph's Hospital in 1952. It was phased out 30 years later.
"Students at the hospital worked on the job and came here for some of their classes," Marsh said. "Students talked about how their living was supervised—nurses couldn't date, let alone be married. Around World War II, women had to work. Some of the women were called 'refrigerator nurses' because they worked long enough to buy appliances for the home."
The nursing caps were part of the rite of passage. Three months after induction of the class, nursing students participated in a capping ceremony.
"Now our students wear a school pin and a patch on their sleeves that identifies they were a DSU student," said Marsh. "The caps went out of style in the fall of 1988, for which I was very grateful. Trying to keep them neat and pressed—that was a challenge."
Nurses used to wear blue and white striped blouses with a white pinafore. Today, they wear scrubs.
"Nurses were considered angels of mercy, so they wore white," Marsh said. "Dresses were required and they evolved into slacks and then scrubs."
Nurses work collaboratively with the hospitalist—the physician on duty at the hospital.
"We can't order medications or if a patient's condition changes, they need the hospitalist to make orders," said Marsh. "When nurses sense something is not right, this information is reported to the physician—the BSN-educated nurses are very good at doing that. They recognize those changes—who is getting worse as well who is getting better. I remember when I first became a nurse, a nurse would take vital signs when you were ready to leave and if the temp was elevated even slightly, we would call the doctor and make them stay until tomorrow. Today, we send them home with the fever and instructions of what to do."
First nursing program
The first nursing education program at DSU originated in 1967 was an Associate Degree Nursing program. It replaced the Practical Nursing program at St. Joseph's Hospital that was phased out in 1972.
Then in 1971, the university offered an exit-option at the end of the first year at that allowed students to receive a practical nurse certificate.
In 1980, the university was granted the privilege of offering a baccalaureate degree in nursing. By 1984-86, students could chose one of three options, a one-year certificate, an associate degree or a bachelor's degree.
Further legislative changes occurred in 1987 when all North Dakota nursing programs required mandated associate degree nursing education to write the licensing exam for practical nurses and baccalaureate degree to write the exam for registered nurses. The certificate program (one year) was phased out in 1988.
Nursing students today
Abrielle Schantz, a freshman from Beulah, chose nursing because her mom and grandmother were both nurses.
"I've always been fond of the nursing field and I chose DSU's nursing program because it's outstanding. I applied to other schools and thought this one was the best because of its hands- on training."
Her goal is receive the LPN license, then work while she finishes the bachelor of nursing degree program. She eventually wants to become a flight nurse.
Henry Aboatye, also a freshman, was born in Ghana and grew up in the Bronx of New York.
"I was looking for colleges that were less expensive, so I applied here," he said. "I'm a CNA (certified nursing assistant), and wanted to become a nurse to take care of people."
He plans to enroll in a master's degree program as a nurse practitioner.
Emily Mnyama, a senior who grew up in Zimbabwe, appreciates the lower tuition and quietness of the university.
As an LPN working toward her BSN degree, Mnyama said. "The benefit of getting the LPN degree first, is I am getting work experience at St. Luke's. Once I'm done, at least I have a nursing background. I want to be an RN for the rest of my life and am thinking of becoming a nurse practitioner. Our teachers push you to your limit, but in a good way," she said.
Kayla Jacobs, also a senior, describes herself as an Air Force brat who graduated high school at Marietta, Calif.
"I wanted to be a nurse after graduating high school, but I didn't want to spend six or seven years in school in California. Coming up here is the land of opportunity," she said.
She works as an LPN in DSU Student Health and may pursue a career as a nurse practitioner or teach nursing.
"I love the class sizes at DSU," Jacobs added. "There's never more than 40 people in a classroom. If you have a question you can talk to the instructor right after class. I think all the nursing instructors are very supportive. They want you to do your best, and they challenge you to do that."
Marsh and her career
Marsh was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Wahpeton. Her grandma was a nurse, a brother was a doctor, and others were in public health and nursing.
"My dad was a surgeon and my biggest influence," she said. "I started college wanting to be a teacher. Anatomy and the sciences started drawing me into nursing and now I am merging both."
Marsh joined the DSU faculty in 1988 and became department chair in 2000. In addition to administration, she teaches senior students in the BSN program.
"The faculty here are phenomenal—some teach in the LPN program, some in BSN, and some teach in both," she said.
The faculty includes Marlys Bachamp, Jacinta Skretteberg, Analena Valdes, Lucy Meyer, Teresa Bren, Audrey Charchenko and Brenda Schaeffer, administrative assistant.
The department has received full approval from the North Dakota Board of Nursing for their associate of applied science in practical nursing (AASPN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs through 2021.
They also received a report of 'outstanding National Council Licensure Examination pass rates' for their spring 2017 graduates. The DSU's 2017 practical nursing pass rate for graduates who took the NCLEX was 100 percent—significantly higher than the 83.8 percent national average, as stated in a press release.
DSU students who graduated with their bachelor's in nursing also exceeded the national average in NCLEX pass rates at 94 percent as compared to 86.2 percent of national test takers.
Five years from now
Five years from now, Marsh would like to see the simulation lab become come more like an acute care setting. Rather than having the mannequins placed side by side in the lab, she would like to see rooms having a remote area where faculty could observe. The setting might even have running water and a telephone for "calling" a physician.
DSU recently initiated an online Associate Degree RN program.
"It's for the nurse who has earned an associate degree, but can take the national exam to become an RN," she said. "Associate Degree RNs cannot take leadership positions or advance to graduate school, but by completing their bachelor's degree online, they don't need to take the national exam because they are already licensed."
The faculty also is beginning discussions with Williston State College about delivering the BSN completion program via Interactive Video Network (IVN) to Williston.
"We did this successfully back in 1992-2000 and it may happen again," she said.