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Pacific Union College Gains Approval to Expand Nursing Program to Sonora

Photo of Pacific Union College campus and parking lot


Pacific Union College (PUC) recently announced that it received state approval for a new nursing training partnership with Adventist Health Sonora. The PUC education center will further the college’s goals of growing its nursing program and help meet the rising need for highly qualified healthcare professionals in the Tuolumne County area.

“In order to expand nursing education to rural areas, hospitals must partner with nursing schools,” said Kimberly Dunker, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at PUC. “Because of the longstanding history between our Adventist organizations, we are able to not only partner but also share the same values and beliefs for nursing education and talent acquisition.”

The Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) program will be open to Adventist Health employees and prospective students in the area looking to move into the nursing field. Pre-nursing classes will begin in April 2024. The nursing program will commence in September.

The California Board of Registered Nurses (BRN) and the Education Licensing Committee (ELC) approved the addition of 18 students to PUC’s nursing program at the Sonora site. This hard-won achievement results from a two-year collaborative effort by PUC and Adventist Health to establish a new nursing education center in an underserved area. Though California will need the most nurses in the nation by 2030, nursing programs in the state typically find it challenging to receive permission to admit more students due to limited clinical space in hospitals.

PUC’s nursing program has a sterling reputation as a well-established, high-quality program, and the state nursing board lauded it in its evaluation last spring. Nursing professors from PUC’s Angwin campus will lead the program at the Sonora site.

Dunker said PUC’s Department of Nursing and Adventist Health have a longstanding, historic relationship dedicated to both organizations’ goals and visions. She cited other campus sites in Hanford, Ukiah, and Travis Airforce Base as examples. “Where there is a need, our nursing program goes to the area to help provide quality nursing education,” Dunker said.

Gene Edelbach, vice president of enrollment, marketing, and communication at PUC, said the partnership has been rewarding.

“It's been exciting to partner with Adventist Health over the last few years in developing new educational products that truly meet the needs of our underserved communities,” Edelbach said.

“We see this program as a win-win—a win for us, for our students, and for the Mother Lode,” said Tyler Newton, operations executive at Adventist Health Sonora, “This program is critical in helping us continue to serve the growing healthcare needs in our region and expand access to care. It also provides a much-needed opportunity for driven, talented local people to advance their careers in healthcare while serving the community they love.”

Ultimately, choosing Sonora as an education center site was based on Tuolumne County’s demographics and the growing demand for nurses in the area. The closest RN program for Sonora residents has been within the Modesto Junior College system. Beyond that, there are programs in Madera, Merced, and Fresno to the South and Sacramento to the North. Admission to these programs is limited.

Prospective students in the Sonora program must complete prerequisite courses before entering. Those courses can be taken at PUC or institutions such as Modesto Community College or California Preparatory College, which have agreements with PUC.

With the new program, there is a clear path from becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to receiving a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). For example, students can achieve their CNA through California Preparatory College, their ADN at the Adventist Health Sonora site, and earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing through PUC’s online programs. This opportunity provides students a robust educational experience while remaining close to their families and local communities.

In 2021, PUC embarked on a vision for the future focusing on four main pillars — including the addition of online programs and education centers. The Angwin campus is the heart of PUC, while the vision plan states that education centers are the “arms and the legs that put us in motion in communities where we are most needed.”

The Sonora site is the second educational center launched by PUC. Several open houses in the area will provide more details to those interested.

Click here to learn more about PUC’s ASN program in Sonora.