Siena Heights University is making history by returning to its roots.
Responding to what has been called a nationwide crisis, President Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, announced that Siena Heights, a Catholic institution with its main campus located in Adrian, Mich., will begin a nursing program. Albert is a member of the Adrian Dominican Sisters congregation that originally came to Adrian in the 19th century to begin a hospital for injured railroad workers and the poor.
“We identified nursing as a primary need not only in the local community, but in the entire state of Michigan,” Albert said. “After exploring the feasibility of adding a degree program in nursing, we believe establishing nursing is consistent with the mission and philosophy of Siena Heights.”
The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth predicts a shortfall of 7,000 nurses by 2010, and that number will increase to 18,000 by 2015. According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the nation is in the midst of a health care crisis. Currently 30 states, including Michigan, have nursing shortages.
“We want to act boldly to meet this need, however, we also want to be smart as we act,” Albert said. “The startup costs for such an undertaking are considerable, however, we believe this is the right move at the right time in our history.”
Although not yet finalized, Albert said Siena is considering a degree completion program from registered nurse to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, as well as a more traditional four-year BSN program. The first RN to BSN nursing students could be enrolled as early as the 2007-08 school year.
Sister Sharon Weber, OP, SHU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, said the first step is hiring a Director of Nursing. A national search is currently underway, with the expectation of having a director named in the near future, she said.
“The director’s first task will be to develop a curriculum following guidelines and standards established by accrediting agencies,” Weber said. “That person will also help develop clinical sites for the program as well as hire nursing faculty and pursue funding opportunities.”
There are currently no four-year nursing programs in Lenawee, Hillsdale or Jackson counties. In Lenawee County, there are more than 25 health care facilities, including two hospitals, and there are several more hospitals within a 50-mile radius. According to state statistics, the health care industry is Michigan’s largest employer.
“Michigan already faces a critical shortage in the area of nursing and things will only worsen as the Baby Boomer generation ages,” said State Rep. Dudley Spade (D-Tipton) of the 57th District. “I commend Siena Heights for its foresight in developing a program that will pay dividends for Lenawee County and the State of Michigan now and in the future. It is resources like these that make Lenawee County such an excellent place to live, work, and raise a family.”
Weber said partnerships with area hospitals and other health care organizations will be important to the success of Siena’s program. The Adrian Dominican Sisters, who founded and sponsor Siena Heights, also sponsor two hospitals, St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson, Nev., and Dominican Hospital CHW in Santa Cruz, Calif.
“There may be some opportunities for collaboration with those sponsored institutions as well,” Weber said.
Albert said Siena will need to identify and equip a nursing skills laboratory and establish a nursing library on campus. However, the prospect of being able to help meet a vital community need excites her.
“We have heard the many stories of local people traveling great distances to complete their nursing education,” Albert said. “Siena Heights is eager to offer the area a local nursing program. This is just the first step in what we hope is a long and productive relationship with the health care community.”
For more information on nursing or any other program at Siena Heights, please call 1-800-521-0009 or 517-264-7180. More details can also be found by visiting the web site at www.sienaheights.edu.