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ISSUE 117 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/26/2003

Nursing major scrutinized

By Krista Haagenstad
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 26, 2003

A task force convened by President Christopher Thom-forde is currently considering the future of the St. Olaf nursing major.

The mission of this task force is to weigh the desirability and feasibility of this major. Its members will determine if the program fits the mission of the college, how it contributes to the general education of a liberal arts school and whether it is an economical use of school resources. Other factors under consideration include student interest in the program and the need for nurses in the job market.

The committee has Sept-ember and October to review the nursing program. Its members must report to Thomforde on Nov. 1. He will review their findings and present his opinion to the Board of Regents during its December meeting. The ultimate decision as to the major’s future lies with the Board of Regents.

Many different outcomes could result. The Board may decide that the program is satisfactory as it stands and no changes will be made. It is also possible that the program may be either expanded or reduced from its current size or that the program will be eliminated.

If a decision is made to eliminate the program, it will likely be done in a gradual fashion. When the Paracollege was eliminated in 2000, all declared majors were allowed to finish their education before the program came to an end. A similar scenario would probably happen again, in which all current majors would graduate but no new majors would be admitted.

Also, three nursing program faculty are tenured and two are on term employments. These professors are guaranteed employment at St. Olaf, the latter two only through a certain date. Accommodations would have to be made for these faculty members in order for them to remain here.

This review is coming when the nursing program is experiencing increased interest from students. The program is on a managed enrollment plan that allows only 20 majors a year. During the last three years, interest in this program has been exceeding the numbers they allow and they have been turning students away. In addition, nurses are in short supply in the job market right now. Recent nursing graduates find they are desirable to employers, especially those with a liberal arts education.

"Nurses from liberal arts backgrounds have better communication skills, stronger leadership and are more culturally educated and aware," says Greta Goerss ’04, a nursing major.

At the same time, the nursing program is very expensive to run considering the small numbers of students eligible to take nursing classes. Most of the classes offered by the department are only available to nursing majors. To accommodate more students, they would need new equipment, new facilities and more faculty since state regulations limit the student-to-staff ratio.

Rita Glazebrook, the chair of the nursing department, is a member of the task force that will be studying the department. She hopes that the value of the nursing program to the St. Olaf community will be recognized.

"This program embodies the mission of the college: to prepare students for lives of work and service," she said. "They are ready and willing to serve others in need."

Glazebrook also hopes they consider the impact these students have on the rest of the student body.

"The nursing program is of interest to a growing number of multicultural students. We have a positive effect on St. Olaf’s attempts to increase diversity on campus," she said. Also, nursing students may bring a unique perspective to their other classes. "They are well-prepared to deal with issues of ethics and morality. They bring these values to discussions in other classes. This is an important part of a liberal arts education," said Glazebrook.

Molly O’Grady ’04, a nursing major, agrees. "I came to St. Olaf not only because of the nursing program but for the opportunity for a liberal arts education. I think it’s important for nurses to receive a more well-rounded education in order to provide complete, holistic care to patients," she said.

"I think the college needs to make a social commitment to the nursing program," says Crystal Malcomson ‘04, a nursing major. "Yes, it may never be a profitable department. But they need to value the contribution their students are making to society."

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