On October 5, 2017, William Woods University announced the establishment of its first-ever
nursing degree program, with a target beginning date of 2019. Dr. Lisa Sitler was appointed as the university’s first Director of the WWU School of Nursing, and joined The Woods Today’s John Fougere for her first interview since becoming director on November 6:
Q: You have enjoyed a long, distinguished career in nursing and health care – what excites you about taking over as Director of Nursing at William Woods?
What’s exciting is that we are going to be making a difference, in the long run, in the health of our population; we are going to contribute to the field of nursing as a profession, and we are going to be offering another important academic program that will make William Woods an even more attractive option for prospective students. There will always be a need for quality health care and establishing this particular degree program will be helping address our current and future societal needs.
Q: What challenges does a university face when starting up a new degree program such as Nursing?
A unique challenge with Nursing is that we have State Board of Nursing compliance, and rules and requirements that we have to meet, before setting this program up. Initially locating students for a new program can also sometimes be a challenge, however the demand for nurses helps with that, especially when you consider that 61 percent of qualified applicants who meet all the entrance guidelines for acceptance for nursing programs are turned away annually. Another challenge we have is a shortage of Nursing faculty, so by training nurses to fill that need we will help answer the question of “where do we find qualified staff?”
Overall, we are making a lot of progress in addressing these challenges, while answering others as well such as where will our clinical sites be located? Or the ongoing questions of meeting regulations. Or securing needed funding sources to make sure we have the necessary resources to make this a successful program.
Q: We are we in the process of getting the Nursing program up and running at William Woods? Can you provide a status update?
We are currently completing our petition to the State Board of Nursing, which involves putting together mission statements, a description of the types of programs offered and their duration, financing information, and letters of support from community and health care organizations that reaffirm that this is a program that is needed. We are also deeply involved in getting commitments for clinical sites and making arrangements for our needed library resources. So, I would say that right now involves a lot of relationship building and securing needed commitments for the program. All of this can be challenging, but it is also extremely exciting as well!
Q: Why is Nursing such a popular and in-demand major across higher education?
Due to the nursing shortage, and the fact that a lot of experienced nurses are retiring. We need to increase the number of practicing nurses, which is a major issue right now. We are also trying to increase the competency of nurses; while we appreciate some of the two-year degree and LPN (Licensed Practicing Nurse) programs, the Institute of Medicine’s and American Nurses Association’s position is that 80 percent of all practicing nurses should be BSN (Bachelor of Science) prepared by the year 2022. There are some hospital systems and employers that, in order to meet magnet status, insist on hiring only BSN prepared nurses. There are actually examples of some nurses that, after working in the profession as a practicing nurse for 30 years, find that they are required to go back and earn their bachelor’s degree in order to retain their jobs.
Q: How will adding a Nursing degree program at William Woods benefit this university?
It is going to benefit William Woods as an institution by expanding the degree programs that we offer. It is also going to make William Woods more involved in the community and specifically, the health of the community. We talk a lot about community and population health, and being immersed in the community, and I know that we as a university do a lot in terms of being heavily involved. Our Nursing program, I believe, is going to take that community involvement to new level.
For example, we are already taking about creating a task force to address the health of the
community. We also know we would eventually like to bring in some well-known and renowned health instructors and speakers, something that will benefit not just us as a university but also other individuals in the community. We will become known as an organization that is not just interested in educating students, but in continuing education and advancing the field and profession of Nursing.