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Alma College to Launch Four-year Nursing Degree

November 13, 2013

“The BSN equates to the development of a professional nurse and incorporates ethics, research, leadership and creativity,” says Judith McKenna. Pending final state approval, the first class of up to 32 nursing students will enter in fall 2014.

Story Update: The Michigan State Board of Nursing, following a site visit in February 2014, has granted final approval to Alma for a bachelor of science in nursing program. — The Editor

Alma College has passed a critical hurdle in launching an innovative four-year nursing degree program that emphasizes the development of creative problem-solving and interpersonal skills in addition to nursing fundamentals.

The Michigan State Board of Nursing granted initial approval to Alma for a bachelor of science in nursing program. The decision on final approval will follow a site visit to ensure that the college has the necessary facilities and clinical partners.

Pending final state approval, the first class of up to 32 nursing students will enter in fall 2014, says Judith McKenna, who was hired in June to develop and implement the nursing program.

Judith McKenna, center, with Alma studentsJudith McKenna, center, with Alma students

“Nurses need a liberal arts preparation,” says McKenna, director of nursing education at Alma. “Students in our program will not be taught in silos or segregated from other students. Other faculty and disciplines will influence the education of our nursing students.

“They will have opportunities to bring together concepts from biology and chemistry as well as English, political science, sociology, administration and even the arts and apply them to the nursing practice,” she says. “We intend to prepare nurses who have the ability to communicate, think critically and realize the value of a well-rounded education.”

The four-year bachelor’s degree has become the minimum educational standard for the nursing profession, says McKenna. Many nurses who have two-year associate’s degrees are returning to school to get their bachelor’s degrees.

“People need nurses, and that’s why it is so important to develop competent nurses who can think critically,” says McKenna. “It’s nurses who are at the bedside of a critically ill patient or with the family who has lost a loved one. It’s nurses who guide families through the next steps of their recovery programs. It’s nurses who look at personal situations beyond the disease and see what really needs to happen at this point in a patient’s life.

“Nurses need to be able to do these things,” she says. “The BSN equates to the development of a professional nurse and incorporates ethics, research, leadership and creativity.”

McKenna, center, with Alma studentsMcKenna, center, with Alma students

In September, the Alma College faculty approved the nursing curriculum that was submitted to the Board of Nursing for approval. The program incorporates early clinical experiences to prepare students to deliver high-quality treatment and adapt quickly to changing patient needs.

Alma College has partnered with MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot in Alma for clinical laboratory space. Located in the hospital’s old ICU space, the college’s nursing laboratory will offer an environment that will make students’ clinical experiences closer to actual settings.

The addition of nursing reflects the college’s growing commitment to expanding its health-related academic programs, says President Jeff Abernathy.

“This is an exciting development for Alma College,” says Abernathy. “The college has identified a need for nurses broadly educated, which includes the critical thinking and problem solving preparation that Alma College provides. In addition to the clinical experience, we offer a great education in a supportive learning environment and an excellent faculty with a passion for respectful, compassionate patient care.”

McKenna has nearly 30 years experience as a nurse, nurse practitioner, nursing instructor and professor. Most recently, she was an assistant professor at the University of Detroit Mercy and an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, She has a doctor of nursing practice from Oakland University.

“In all of my experiences of teaching, I’m most impressed by the caliber of Alma students, not only from an intellectual standpoint but from a respect standpoint,” says McKenna. “Whatever the students are interested in, I have found them focused, passionate and dedicated. Many students here have expressed an interest to go into nursing, but not to just get a job or a degree; they want to learn and make a difference in the lives of people.”

Admission requirements include a minimum ACT score of 25, minimum high school grade point average of 3.0, a goal statement and satisfactory interview with a selection team.

Alma currently offers programs in health care administration, integrative physiology and health science, public health, athletic training, biochemistry and biology, with pre-professional programs in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant.

In addition, the college’s Integrated Health Studies Institute helps students discover their career interests within the health professions, offering co-curricular programming, mentoring and clinical work opportunities.