Nursing: A calling to help others

A poster outside the office of Dr. Anne Manton, acting dean of Fairfield University's School of Nursing, depicts three children sitting together reading "The Wizard of Oz". The caption under the illustration reads: Courage, Heart, Brains - Nursing.

To Dr. Manton, that poster says it all. "In nursing, we're really looking for the best and the brightest," she explains. "First of all, nurses need to be smart. They need to know their sciences. They need to know their math because they need to figure out dosages. They also have to have a good understanding of psychology and how to tap into people's fears and how to support them. Good nurses also have to be really assertive. If they're not able to be assertive on their own behalf - to advocate for themselves and their patients - they'll get so burned out that they won't be able to stay."

To help the "best and the brightest" find a career in nursing, Fairfield University offers a variety of programs which draw new students to nursing, and support those already in nursing. In the past year, the school has redesigned its existing curriculum to include courses on health care delivery systems, wellness and alternative therapies. It also offers a "second degree" program, where individuals with a bachelor's degree in another discipline can receive a bachelor of science degree in nursing in 18 months.

What's even more exciting is that the School of Nursing recently received permission from the State of Connecticut to begin a master's degree in nursing program for students with a degree in another discipline, only the second program of its kind statewide. After the first 18 months of the program, students will be able to take licensing exams without obtaining a second bachelor's degree. Following licensure, students can then begin master's-level coursework.

Another new program is a "fast-track" MSN, where registered nurses can use, in part, their life experiences to obtain a bachelor's degree in professional studies, which will enable them to pursue master's-level studies roughly one year earlier than usual.

Within the master's-level programs are Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner tracks. An Adult Nurse Practitioner track is being developed. Recognizing that not every nurse wants to be a nurse practitioner, the school is now developing a master's degree in nursing with an emphasis on Health Care Systems Management focusing on two tracks: Health Care Law and Health Care Management.

"What we'll be doing with the Management piece is linking up with the School of Business and their MBA program," Dr. Manton explained. "When people graduate from that track, they'll also be eligible for a Certificate in Health Care Systems Management from the School of Business."

Despite recent articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association citing a nursing shortage in the United States, Fairfield University's undergraduate nursing school has the largest incoming class this fall that it's had for several years. "What's really good about that is that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has noted a decrease nationally every year, for the past five years, in nursing school enrollments. So, it's nice to buck that trend," Dr. Manton noted.

Dr. Manton has also witnessed a growing number of adult learners who are turning to nursing. That's in keeping with national data that suggests more adult learners are turning to nursing. "They're out there in the work world and it sounds great to have these big salaries, but if someone is looking for intrinsic rewards, it's just not there," she commented. "They turn to nursing because it's the sense of doing for, of giving back, of really making a contribution and affecting people's lives in a positive sense."

A nursing scholar with a master's degree from Boston College and a doctorate from the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Manton's first love is still nursing. Once her term as acting dean is over, she hopes to go back to St. Raphael's Hospital on a per diem basis, in addition to teaching at the School of Nursing.

"I did think about going into medicine for a while. Now that I know more about the difference between nursing and medicine, nursing was absolutely the right place for me," Dr. Manton mused. "The way it's easiest for me to explain to people is that medicine is focused on the disease. Nursing is focused on the person. I need to focus on the person."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on July 11, 2000

Vol. 33, No. 8

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