Fairfield School of Nursing: New programs aimed at easing the nursing shortage


With reports of a nursing shortage in the United States coming from publications as noteworthy as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fairfield University was especially pleased to welcome the largest incoming freshman class that it has had for several years.

"The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has noted a decrease nationally every year, for the past five years, in nursing school enrollments," said Dr. Anne Manton, acting dean of the School of Nursing. "It's nice to buck that trend."

Meanwhile, she notes, a trend moving in the right direction is the number of adult learners who are turning to nursing. "National data suggests more adult learners are turning to nursing. They're out there in the daily grind of the work world and often the intrinsic rewards are 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."

One such example is John Orazietti who decided to pursue a nursing degree after he was involved in a near-fatal car accident. He had applied his first degree in industrial technology to a variety of jobs in the printing industry where he spent 14 years. But lying in bed following the accident, unable at first to walk, he did a lot of soul searching. "I felt I was not making a positive mark on society," he said.

He decided to follow the lead of family members in the health care field and, following his completion of the Fairfield program, began working in the cardio-thoracic Intensive Care Unit at St. Raphael's Hospital in New Haven. Philosophical about the turnaround in his life, he says "Sometimes I think, 'Oh God, I almost died.' Now if I died, I could feel I really made a difference.

To help attract top students to a career in nursing and give support to those already in the field, Fairfield has developed a wide range of programs. In the past year, the school 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.

In addition, the School of Nursing has 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.

Students in the master's-level programs may opt for Family Nurse or Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner tracks. A third track in Adult Nurse Practitioner is being developed.

In an exciting collaboration with the School of Business, the School of Nursing will soon be offering a master's degree with an emphasis on Health Care Systems Management. Two tracks for the program will be Health Care Law and Health Care Management. "When people graduate from this program," Dr. Manton explained, they'll also be eligible for a Certificate in Health Care Systems Management from the School of Business."

A nursing scholar with a master's degree from Boston College and a doctorate from the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Manton describes nursing as her first love. 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," she mused recently. "Now that I know more about the difference between nursing and medicine, nursing was absolutely the right place for me. 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, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 18, 2001

Vol. 33, No. 106