Search PLU
Features. RX for nursing. For 50 years, PLU's School of Nursing has advanced health care knowledge

Rx for Nursing

by Greg Brewis

Advances in health care knowledge and changes in practices have profoundly transformed the nursing profession over the 50 years since the first class graduated from the PLU School of Nursing.

Now, past and present leaders and educators in nursing are seeking the prescription that will ensure the profession will thrive amid the social, economic and demographic pressures of the coming decades.

“The changes in the nursing profession that I experienced over my career seem astounding now that I look back on them,” said Karen (Hille) Phillips ’55.

“When I graduated from Pacific Lutheran, nurses provided bedside care that wasn’t technical at all. A typical hospital room contained a bed, a bedside stand and a chair. Today nursing is much more complex. At times it seems that nurses now spend as much time monitoring machines as they do patients,” Phillips said.

“In other ways, it seems that nothing has changed. We received a very good education. The school produced good nurses who would give the best care to sick people, just as PLU nursing students do today.”

Lori (Stanke) ’82 Loan agrees that while the practice of nursing has evolved over the decades, PLU has always had a commitment to quality nursing education.

“Patients in the hospital 50 years ago were a lot less sick than hospitalized patients today,” said Loan, who is chief of nursing research service at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma and received the 2002 PLU Distinguished Nursing Alumni Award.

“In the past, nurses needed to know only the fundamentals of anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology. Those who would have been sent to the hospital in the past are today cared for at home by family members. Now it is the acutely ill who are hospitalized, requiring much more knowledge and technology in their care,” she said.

According to Loan, nursing education has evolved to meet these new requirements. Nurses still must master the traditional basics of their profession, but much more technical knowledge is now required as well, including the administration of thousands of new medications and the operation of highly specialized equipment.

Phillips and Loan both said that decades ago women had an extremely limited number of career choices. They could become a housewife, a teacher or a nurse. Now women have almost unlimited opportunities to choose a profession. This, along with increases in demand for nurses, has caused the current critical shortage of nurses.

“One of the great strengths of the PLU nursing program has been the work it has done to attract a wider range of individuals into nursing, both as a first profession and from other professions,” Loan said.

PLU’s new Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing program is on the cutting edge nationally and is offered by few other schools. The program allows college graduates to become a registered nurse in 15 months, then work while earning their master’s degree.

Loan cites the size of PLU’s nursing program as another point of distinction. Rather than the huge classes that are offered in some other nursing programs, PLU offers smaller classes, classes that are taught by professors, and a smaller student-faculty ratio. As a result, the quality and caliber of the nursing program at schools such as PLU is much higher than many other places.

“As an employer of graduates of nursing programs from around the country, Madigan is always hoping to get PLU graduates to apply for our jobs. We know they will be well-trained and ready to contribute from their first day on the job,” Loan said.

Dean of the School of Nursing Terry Miller agrees that progressively complex techniques, technologies and pharmaceuticals have been added to the nurse’s repertoire, sometimes diminishing the nurse’s traditional role as a selfless advocate for a patient’s overall well being.

For Miller, who as been dean since 1998, the greatest challenge and the key to the program’s future success is in continuing to view nursing not just as a technical profession but as a way of life—sustaining the traditional commitment to teach nurses to care for the well-being of patients in the broadest and most intimate sense.

“Students who graduate from our program are actively living the motto of the university,” Miller said. “Service to others is something our students feel very deeply and they appreciate the PLU environment that provides the support they need for that commitment. That truly is one of the distinctions of nursing at PLU.”

But the shortage of nurses, the unavoidable pressures on nurses to fully command the nuances of modern medicine, the explosive growth of the geriatric population, and the reduction in funding of social programs dedicated to the welfare of economically disadvantaged children, youth and adults all combine to threaten what Miller sees as a nurse’s core duty.

“Nurses play a unique, essential and irreplaceable role in the holistic approach to wellness,” Miller said.

The question for Miller is whether this central tenet of nursing will hold in the coming decades.

“There is a remarkable opportunity ahead for the nursing profession to continue to meet its traditional obligation to provide the highest quality care, to the most people, for the least cost,” he said.

“Will we be part of the solution?

“It’s up to us.”

More Rx for Nursing: Three past and present leaders in nursing ensure profession thrives

Next Feature: Life Lessons - PLU and middle school students learn from each other

Noteworthy Developments, in the School of Nursing

1951: Washington State Board of Professional Nurse Registration grants temporary approval for Department of Nursing at PLC. Cooperative agreement signed between PLC and Emanuel Hospital in Portland with clinical courses held at Emanuel.

1953: The program’s first graduating class of two students, Marianne E. (Sunset) Moore and Evelyn E. (Peterson) Nordeen, receive B.S. degrees in nursing. Moore spent most of her career as a community health nurse in the Northwest. She is retired and lives in Yachats, Ore. Nordeen held a variety of positions early in her career and then was head of school nurses and health education in the Bothell, Wash., area. She is retired and lives in Edmonds, Wash. Moore and Nordeen plan a reunion later this month.

1958: Full accreditation by the State Board of Professional Nurse Registration.

1959: New four-year nursing program allows nursing students to remain on campus for the entire course of study. Graduates qualify for the BSN and are eligible for the RN exam.

1960: Pacific Lutheran College becomes Pacific Lutheran University and Department of Nursing Education becomes School of Nursing.

1965: Initial National League for Nursing accreditation, continues to this day.

1977: First continuing nursing education offered, leading to the 1981 establishment of the Continuing Nursing Education Program, which is fully accredited in 1986.

1978: Special sequence of study established for RNs pursuing BSN.

1985: Wellness Center established.

1989: Master of science in nursing degree

1990: LPN to BSN sequence implemented for the first time in the Northwest. Discontinued in 2002.

1999: International experiences established for students from four nursing schools in Norway.

2001: Partnership with Oregon Health Sciences University offering doctoral program via Polycom on-site at PLU

2002: Creation of the Dedicated Education Unit at Multicare’s Tacoma General Hospital.

2003: Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing program begins.

Photo Credits

By: Jordan Hartman '02
Nursing student Sarah Hatley '05 poses in a traditional uniform that was worn by Karen Phillips '55.


 Back to top  Fall 2003 Scene Copyright 2003 Pacific Lutheran University  Credits ~ Last Updated 09-05-2003 ~ Comments