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Q&A: Dean Penelope Moyers discusses changes in the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., OT, FAOTA, Dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health
Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., OT, FAOTA, Dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski '10

With over 3 million members, the nursing profession makes up the largest segment of the healthcare workforce in the United States, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Working on the front lines of patient care, nurses will play a vital role in helping to meet the objectives set forth by the 2010 Affordable Care Act — legislation that represents the broadest healthcare overhaul since the 1965 creation of Medicare and Medicaid.

In its report on “The Future of Nursing,” the IOM maintains that today’s nurses must be full partners with physicians and other healthcare professionals and that nurses must practice to the full extent of their education and training. 

The nursing faculty at the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health at St. Catherine University have taken this message to heart. Through dedication and hard work, they are implementing sweeping changes, including the newly accredited Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

The School of Health is planning a progressive curriculum for 2012 and is phasing in important changes to the current curriculum — changes that prepare nurses to be leaders in their fields and allow them to flourish even in the midst of sweeping changes in the nursing profession.

Dean Penelope Moyers, Ed.D., OT, FAOTA, says an education from St. Kate’s prepares nurses to practice at the top of their licenses while addressing changes in the healthcare field.  

Q. The Institute of Medicine recommends that 80 percent of nurses have baccalaureate degrees by the year 2020. How is the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health preparing for the future?

A. St. Kate’s — and its graduates — will be prepared. We’re counseling our nursing students who are completing an associate’s degree that they need to go on, at minimum, for a baccalaureate degree in nursing.

We have a continued commitment to access and diversity in higher education. St. Kate’s is revising its admissions policy for the associate degree nursing program to ensure that admitted students get the support and resources they need to succeed in obtaining their initial degree, but to succeed as well as they pursue nursing at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. The public needs more nurses prepared at the highest degree levels possible.

Q. How is St. Kate’s nursing program accounting for legislation under healthcare reform — legislation that seeks to make affordable, quality healthcare accessible to all?

A. Our program is focusing on the future. We are committed to preparing nurses to practice not only in hospitals or acute care, but more importantly to work in prevention, wellness and community settings. That’s consistent with the demands of healthcare reform.

Q. How is St. Catherine University preparing nurses for the workforce, in light of these changes in the nursing profession?

A. Our baccalaureate-level nursing program will require more credit hours, especially clinical hours, beginning in the fall of 2012. Important curricular changes will also be phased in this coming fall for students taking their pre-requisite or supporting courses as they prepare to enter the nursing program.

Q. How can the University ensure that nursing students have access to clinical placements?

A. Our new director of clinical education, Rebecca McGill MAOL’94, is well-positioned to help us foresee changing workplace demands. She is leading our Henrietta Schmoll School of Health and working with various healthcare systems to examine and develop new ways of offering clinical education that better fit with all the changes resulting from healthcare reform.

One of the workplace demands we are focusing on is a growing need for advanced-practice nurses who can thrive in a variety of settings with minimal supervision.

Q. What are you doing to prepare your students for their licensure exams?

A. St. Kate’s is committed to helping our students succeed, at the University and in the workplace. Our nursing education must prepare nurses for future practice and how it is changing. At the same time, we must prepare students to pass a licensure examination focused on current practice. The curriculum would be lacking if we decided to primarily “teach to the test.” To augment the preparation of students, we’ve contracted with Kaplan Nursing to help ensure that associate and baccalaureate degree students are fully prepared to take licensure exams.

Kaplan’s tests mirror the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) style of testing, so the tests help students become comfortable with the format of the exams they will take for licensure.

Q. Why do nursing students at St. Kate’s take liberal arts courses?

A. St. Kate’s uniquely prepares graduates to meet the challenges of a complex and global workplace. Our liberal arts core curriculum educates students to lead and influence — to be critical thinkers who have strong communication skills.

We prepare nurses to be collaborative, patient-centered and team-focused, but we also educate them to be decision-makers and independent thinkers.

Q. Why does St. Kate’s include a curricular focus on science and math in its nursing program?

A. Confidence and competence in science and math are strong predictors of success in nursing programs. Our strong emphasis on STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) helps us ensure that our nursing graduates are prepared for the workforce.

Q. St. Catherine University has been educating nurses for almost 100 years. How does the University continue to remain current in the midst of changes in the field?

A. St. Kate’s has been a leader in educating nurses for nearly a century, and we continue to lead by bringing 21st century changes to our program. Our nursing degree options are fully accredited by NLNAC.

The leadership and dedication of our nursing faculty have been invaluable to the success of our programs. Under the leadership of Associate Dean Margaret Dexheimer Pharris, faculty in the Department of Nursing have worked long hours and weekends in order to implement these changes, and they have worked tirelessly to institute the Doctor of Nursing Practice, leading the program to full accreditation this year.

We launched the Doctor of Nursing Practice in 2008, and the program was granted full accreditation in March 2011. The next accreditation visit is scheduled for 2015.

The baccalaureate nursing program was first accredited in 1952, the associate's nursing program first accredited in 1972, and the master’s nursing program was initially accredited in 1993. All three programs earned re-accreditation in 2005 and all of them are scheduled for continuing accreditation site visits in 2012.

We look forward to these visits as an opportunity to keep our programs strong, innovative and focused on the future.

June 16, 2011 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Social Justice