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