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By Janell Hullquist/Southern Adventist University
Southern Adventist University (SAU) will celebrate the School of Nursing’s 60th anniversary at a special event on Oct. 29, 2016, during homecoming weekend. Faculty will present various awards to alumni during an evening that commemorates the nursing program’s first baccalaureate class and the graduation of more than 4,300 alumni. Current students will participate in era-specific uniforms from the past six decades and by networking with nursing professionals.
According to Sylvia Mayer, associate professor in the School of Nursing, much of the change at Southern can be traced back to more than a half century ago. In 1948, the Brown Report (“Nursing for the Future”) pushed to move the profession’s training grounds from non-academic hospital settings to colleges and universities.
“Southern was an early adopter of this recommendation,” Mayer said. “Nursing has a long history and Southern has made many innovations in the education of nurses over the past 60 years.”
After the School of Nursing celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006, the total number of students pursuing a nursing degree each year has risen from approximately 500 to more than 900, accounting for nearly one third of SAU's enrollment. A summer nursing program began in 2015 to accommodate demand.
This growth has been greatly affected by the success of students, alumni, and faculty — a reality seen firsthand by Mayer and her colleagues. While in Chicago for a nursing conference in 2011, her husband had a heart attack. In the hospital waiting room she heard a voice call her name and looked up to see a nursing graduate from Southern.
“What a joy to see this young lady and know we were in godly, capable hands,” Mayer said. “We don’t believe it was an accident!”
The feeling among nursing alumni is mutual.
“Ever since joining the nursing program, I felt like I was part of a big family,” said Sara Evans, recent nursing graduate. “You create strong bonds in the program by taking care of people together; even after graduation, I can go back for help from the faculty.”
Along with enrollment growth, the School of Nursing is also celebrating other changes that have taken place since 2006. The opening in 2011 of Florida Hospital Hall to house the nursing program and the 2012 launch of the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree have helped fulfill the vision administrators and faculty have for the ever-increasing role nursing will play in shaping campus.
The School of Nursing is endorsed by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing through fall 2018. Southern has a track record of exceeding both state and national average pass rates, even reaching a 100 percent pass rate in several years. A recent dip in student NCLEX-RN scores put the associate degree program on conditional status with the Tennessee State Board of Nursing, but changes such as adding courses, adjusting testing processes, and requiring content review and mentoring programs have been initiated to raise pass rates to historic levels. Nursing graduates from SAU enjoy a positive reputation and are in demand both locally and across the country.
“We continue to influence nursing with a Christ-centered focus in practice, education, and research,” said Barbara James, School of Nursing dean.
The School of Nursing’s 60th anniversary program will take place in the Chattanooga Embassy Suites Ballroom and includes hors d’oeuvres and dessert. Organizers anticipate between 200-300 nursing alumni will be in attendance.