The College of Health Sciences & Nursing celebrated the 40th anniversary of Belmont’s nursing program this fall. Since its inception, Belmont’s program has produced more than 2,000 skilled nurses who have served patients throughout the United States and around the world.
“This is an exciting time for nursing and especially for nursing at Belmont,” said College of Health Sciences & Nursing Dean Cathy R. Taylor. “Belmont nurses have always been known as leaders, highly respected for their skill and patient-centered focus. Today, they are increasingly recognized as innovators and change agents for improving health care quality, access and value. We are indeed honored to celebrate and build upon such a remarkable legacy of excellence to meet the health care challenges ahead.”
Associate Dean of Nursing Martha Buckner said, “We are so pleased to be celebrating this milestone in Belmont’s history. Our graduates have forged a tremendous reputation for this program. They are caring professional nurses whose practice is characterized by clinical excellence and compassion. We are proud of our heritage and excited about our future.”
The School of Nursing, Office of Alumni Relations and Omicron Phi Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, International Honor Society of Nursing held a program in November to commemorate the 40th anniversary with a panel discussion of nursing executives on The Future of Nursing in the Era of Health Care Reform. Panelists included Vanderbilt University Medical Center Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree and Middle Tennessee Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Kelly Miles.
The first nursing students began pursuing associate degrees at Belmont in the fall of 1972. Thirteen years later, the program began transitioning to a traditional Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing curriculum and soon thereafter began the School of Nursing with a Registered Nurse track. The first master’s degree students were admitted in 1994, and the College of Health Sciences was formed five years later. This year the College of Health Sciences & Nursing announced the start of a Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which offers a flexible online, weekend hybrid curriculum to allow working nurse practitioners to complete their doctorates while maintaining full-time positions.
Today, the School of Nursing employs 35 full-time faculty and approximately 50 part-time adjunct faculty and has nearly 600 students, who rank among the very top in the nation for licensure and certification examination pass rates. The School of Nursing prepares graduates for the health care systems of the future, emphasizing care that is patient centered, evidence based and grounded in principles of quality and safety. Housed in the Gordon E. Inman Health Science Center since 2006, the Belmont School of Nursing includes three state-of-the art simulation laboratories that enable students to practice on life-like mannequins. With clinical practice opportunities in all major Nashville hospitals and medical centers as well as scores of local clinics, nursing students experience cutting-edge care practices in a city known as an international health care capital. Belmont nursing students learn the leadership skills and professional behaviors they need to serve in leadership roles to improve the health of patients, communities and populations.
“The enrollment has increased significantly, but it has not increased at the expense of the mission and value of the school. It has remained stable, which is something that is difficult to do with the amount of growth that we have had,” said Nursing Professor Debra B. Wollaber, who came to Belmont in 1988 when there were just 60 students in the nursing program. Since then she has served in roles including deans of both the School of Nursing and College of Health Sciences.
Through Wollaber’s vision and leadership with former Associate Dean, Chris Algren, the Partners in Nursing Consortium was created to address the needs of Middle Tennessee for baccalaureate prepared nurses to move into positions of responsibility in hospitals and clinics. The program is an innovative solution to the nursing shortage that allows students from Welch College, formerly Free Will Baptist Bible College, Nashville State Community College and Volunteer State Community College to study at Belmont’s School of Nursing.
“There is a shortage of nursing faculty and the Partners in Nursing Consortium was a response to this systemic issue and one of our biggest accomplishments. All of us work together for the common goal of producing excellent registered nurses that can practice in an acute and complex nursing environment,” she said. “Belmont has been a place that enables me and those that work here to create opportunities for students to learn excellent nursing care and impact the lives of thousands of people in Middle Tennessee and beyond.”