Dominican opens state-of-the-art nursing program

Monday marked the first day of classes for Dominican students and a special day for the first nursing students the school has seen. Through generous donations from Westlake hospital, Dominican renovated the fourth floor of Parmer Hall to create a state-of-the-art nursing lab, where 20 students will work their way toward B.S.N. degrees.

Twenty percent of the new students are men, which is an impressive statistic for Dominican and for the nursing field.

Students gain admission into the nursing program during their junior or senior year. They must have a 2.75 GPA and score well on a basic skills test. Director Debra Gurney, EdD, RN, proudly announced that the incoming class has a cumulative GPA of 3.34 and a 72 average on the TEASE skills test–a “really good” score.

The nursing program is composed of 13 courses, 8 of which have a clinical component. Students will complete 814 contact hours at sites across the Chicagoland area, including Rush Oak Park Hospital and West Suburban Medical Center.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the program is the state-of-the-art Laerdal clinical simulation mannequins. The lab has four lifelike, high-functioning mannequins that can be programed for almost any condition. They can sweat, bleed, turn blue, and even die. One mannequin can give birth, complete with fluids. “The mother is quite messy,” explained Maureen Emlund, MSN, RN, clinical simulation manager.

Students can program the mannequins during open hours in the lab if they need more practice on a particular scenario.

All simulations are videotaped so students can discuss the simulation after it has finished. This process helps students celebrate the things they did right, note things they would have done differently, and gives them a boost of confidence, Emlund explained.

Documentation is an important part of the program. Students will gain real-life experience with electronic medical records by entering notes, medicinal dosages and procedures into the lab’s mobile laptops.

Dominican’s nursing program is unique due the amount of hands-on experience it offers. “Students are in [the lab] every day,” Emlund said. Another unique factor is Dominican’s liberal arts curriculum, which shapes students who have a broad range of knowledge and abilities. Gurney said the nursing program focuses on holistic, whole-person treatment. In addition, the new nursing faculty has an impressive amount of experience. Emlund has been a pediatric nurse for 15 years; Gurney was on an administrator and faculty member at Rockford University, City Colleges of Chicago, St. Anthony Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital.

A nursing program is ideal for Dominican, given our emphasis on caring and compassion. Gurney said, “Nursing really speaks to Dominican’s vision.”

Gurney said President Donna Carroll’s vision is to expand Dominican’s health care programs. Gurney said her next task is to offer a master’s degree in nursing so students can become nurse practitioners.

Gurney has high hopes for the nursing program’s future. Incoming freshmen selected nursing as their number one desired major.