Prior to 1950, for two decades, pre-nursing at Pacific Lutheran College (PLC) was offered in cooperation with Tacoma General Hospital, Swedish Hospital, and the California Lutheran Hospital in Los Angeles.
The first indication that a bachelor’s degree with a major in nursing existed at PLU is identified in the 1945-46 PLC catalog. In the fall of 1950, the nursing curriculum was submitted for consideration by the State of Washington. On April 23, 1951, the State Board of Professional Nurse Registration gave temporary approval for a Department of Nursing Education at Pacific Lutheran College.
In September 1951, a cooperative agreement was signed between PLC and Emanuel Hospital, in Portland, Oregon, agreeing to establish a program in nursing. The clinical education would be at the Emanuel Hospital and its affiliated agencies.
Freda Al Peterson was the first Director from 1951 to 1953. During that time, R. Elaine Kraabel Morken was the Educational Director at Emanuel Hospital. When Freda Al Peterson left PLC in 1953, R. Elaine Kraabel Morken became Director and served from 1953 to 1967.
Ms. Kraabel Morken was followed by Dr. Doris Stucke, who served in the capacity of Educational Director from August 1967 until June 1982. Dr. Stucke was granted a sabbatical leave for the 1982-83 academic year, following which she retired to become professor emeritus. In July 1982, Dr. Moira Mansell was appointed and served as Dean until March 1989. Dr. Dorothy Detlor-Langan served as Dean of the School of Nursing from 1989 to 1997, with Anne Hirsch serving in the role of Associate Dean, Undergraduate Nursing Education and Dr. Cleo Pass as Associate Dean, Graduate Nursing Education. In 1997, Dr. Anne Hirsch assumed the role of Interim Dean for one year. In August 1998, Dr. Terry Miller assumed the role of Dean of the School of Nursing, serving until August 2014. Dr. Teri Moser Woo joined the PLU School of Nursing as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs in 2012. Dr. Sheila Smith, RN, APRN, ANP-BS, was appointed Dean and Professor in August 2014-July 2018. Dr. Carol Seavor was appointed Interim Dean in July 2018. Dr. Barbara Habermann was appointed Dean in July 2019 and Dr. Kathleen Richardson was appointed Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in July 2020.
On September 17, 1958, full accreditation by the State Board of Professional Nurse Registration was granted. In April 1959, a consultation visit from the National Nursing Accrediting Service occurred. A new program which would allow nursing students to remain on campus for the entire four years was proposed, with full approval being received from the State Board of Professional Nurse Registration in January 1960. In June 1960, Pacific Lutheran College became Pacific Lutheran University. The Department of Nursing Education became the School of Nursing. In 1982, the title of Director was changed to Dean.
The undergraduate program encompasses three study sequences and is approved by the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission. The undergraduate program qualifies students for the Bachelor of Science in nursing degree and certifies them eligible to sit for the registered nurse licensure exam (NCLEX-RN). The basic program is four academic years in length. A sequence for registered nurses pursuing the BSN was established in 1978. In the academic year 1997-98, the RN-BSN program began its phase-out. A new RN-B to MSN cohort program, for registered nurses with a non-nursing baccalaureate, was proposed to begin September 1999. Starting in the fall of 1990, an LPN-BSN sequence of study was initiated and implemented by Professor Shirley Coleman Aikin. This program, which allows LPNs to obtain the baccalaureate degree following completion of prerequisites, is the first of its kind in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.
In 1989, the faculty and Board of Regents approved a proposal for a program of study leading to the Master of Science in nursing degree. The program is four semesters in length, offered over a 2-year period. The first students began classes in February 1990, with the first graduates completing the program in May and August, 1992. The MSN Care and Outcomes Manager concentration includes focus areas in nurse education and administration.
In 2003, the School of Nursing enrolled its first cohort in the Entry-Level MSN program. The program is designed for students with non-nursing baccalaureate degrees to complete the graduate degree in nursing. Students’ progress through an intensive 15-month course load which qualifies them for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination in Washington State and progress directly into graduate coursework to complete the MSN degree. The entire sequence of courses for this generalist program requires 27 months of study to complete.
Associate Dean for Graduate Nursing Education, Dr. Teri Moser Woo joined the School of Nursing in 2012 and led the faculty in developing the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The PLU Doctor of Nursing Practice degree prepares graduates in the advanced practice specialty area of Family Nurse Practitioner. The DNP is the first doctorate at Pacific Lutheran University and received initial approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and the Washington Nursing Care Quality Commission in 2014. The first DNP students were admitted 2015.
In 1981, Continuing Nursing Education became a formal program within the School of Nursing. The initial director was Dr. Cynthia Mahoney. In 1994, the program was incorporated into the Center for Continued Nursing Learning, and was directed by Dr. Patsy Maloney.
A final major accomplishment of the School of Nursing was the PLU Wellness Center, which for over 23 years provided low-cost health care to the community until its closure in the summer of 2009 due to shrinking public funding. A nurse practitioner faculty member, Professor Joan Stiggelbout, started the Center in the mid-1980′s. The nurse-managed center made a major contribution to the School of Nursing and the university, as well as to the local community of Parkland.
Work began on renovating the former campus bookstore in early 2020 to be transformed to the Clinical Learning and Simulation Center. This building is located nearby on Garfield Street housing two simulation areas, a 16 bed skill laboratory, two classrooms and student lounge areas. The building opened in September 2020.