Seton Hill University continued expanding its natural and health sciences department with the addition of its four-year bachelor of science in nursing degree in December. The university is currently accepting applications for students who wish to enroll in the nursing program, and the first classes will begin this fall.
“The school is already very rich in the sciences and health sciences, so adding nursing was just kind of a natural move because it just further expands on the expertise the university has,” said Diane Kondas, director of the nursing program at SHU.
After discovering that SHU wanted to add a nursing program, Kondas said she wanted to become involved because of her interest in “helping nursing education in Westmoreland County.” Kondas, who has years of experience in nursing education and clinical settings, began working at SHU last April. She spent last summer creating the university’s application for the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, and the board’s approval in December gave SHU the green light to start admitting students.
In addition to expanding the sciences, Kondas said SHU wanted to help improve the nursing shortage. According to SHU’s official website, more than 500,000 nurses are expected to retire by 2022.
SHU is the latest local higher education institution to offer a nursing program. The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg recently launched its nursing program, Westmoreland County Community College offers an associate degree in nursing and Saint Vincent College will begin its nursing program through Carlow University in the fall.
The university has been preparing for the new program by designating two classrooms on the first floor of Maura Hall solely for nursing. While one room more closely resembles a typical classroom, the other will serve as a nursing lab. The lab passed its inspection and is equipped with five hospital bed stations and a mannequin for students to practice hands-on skills in class.
“The room is more of a skills lab, where it’s nice and open, and everybody can collaborate together,” Kondas said. “The goal is with more funding, we can add another simulation room where we can have some higher tech equipment.”
Kondas is currently the only professor who will teach nursing courses, but plans to hire additional faculty during the 2019-2020 academic year. Nursing-specific courses were created to teach students topics including physical assessment, clinical skills, adult health and family nursing.
“We definitely had to create a whole new curriculum for the nursing students, but in addition, we’re trying to capitalize on the strengths of the university so the sciences are instilled from the school of natural and health sciences,” Kondas said.
“It was really important for me to keep intact the liberal arts curriculum, because I think it’s really important for students to benefit from the whole university experience and to meet all of the university objectives outside of nursing,” Kondas added. “To be a participating member of global society, they really need that ability to take all of the liberal arts.”
Along with their courses, students will also gain experience by working in hospital facilities. SHU’s partnerships include UPMC (Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, UPMC East, UPMC McKeesport), Excela Health Network (Westmoreland, Latrobe and Frick hospitals), Allegheny Health Network (Forbes and Jefferson hospitals), Uniontown Hospital, Loyalhanna Care Center, William Penn Care Center and Caritas Christi.
“One of our responsibilities as a program in nursing is to make sure we’re giving students hands-on experience in nursing skills, and that has to occur in hospital facilities,” Kondas said. “Any hospital I have knocked on the door has been interested, and I’ve had hospitals and nursing homes actually calling to see if they can participate with us too. There’s definitely a huge interest in this area.”
SHU’s nursing program is being launched through the Daniel J. Wukich School of Nursing, which was made possible by a donation from Daniel J. Wukich. Wukich is a SHU trustee and the founder, owner, president and CEO of Quest Healthcare Development, Inc. Kondas said donations and grants have helped provide funding to start the nursing program.
The nursing program joins multiple other programs in the sciences that SHU offers, including physician assistant, health sciences, nutrition and dietetics, exercise science and orthodontics. SHU also has partnerships with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and Salus University.
Kondas said SHU’s expectation is to admit 24 students to the nursing program for the fall 2019 semester. She is also planning to seek accreditation for the nursing program from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in the future.
“Ultimately my goal is to provide enough support so the students are able to make it from freshman year to graduation academically, and that they are hopefully still in love with the profession,” Kondas said. “I want to make sure we’re offering these students the best the university has to offer.”
Published By: Stephen Dumnich