When Indiana University East started its nursing program 40 years ago, students would board a bus to travel to Indianapolis to take courses.
That cooperative effort with IUPUI, that humble beginning with a handful of nursing students, has come full circle with IU East evolving into a hub of regional nursing education.
IU East handed out its first associate degree in nursing in 1978.
Now, there are 400 students each year from around the area. In addition to the primary Richmond campus, classes are also held in Lawrenceburg, Madison, New Castle and Dayton, Ohio for regional students.
There are bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
There’s still collaboration within the Indiana University system, but it’s mainly online — no more bus rides.
There’s a growing collaboration with Reid Hospital & Health Care Services, which offers a brand-new hospital and growing medical industry just steps away from the IU East campus in north Richmond.
Call it a community of nursing, says Dean Karen Clark, who started as an instructor in 1987.
“It takes a village to birth a nurse,” she says. “The need keeps growing. We keep growing.”
The program has progressed from associate to RN degrees to bachelor’s degrees. In 2011, the School of Nursing offered its first graduate degree, a Master of Science in Nursing, with concentrations in nursing education, nursing administration, and beginning spring 2015, a family nurse practitioner program.
“There are so many venues with which students can match their passions,” says Clark, who is the university’s fourth dean. The others were Drs. Judy McCarty, Joan Fopma-Loy and Joanne Rains-Warner.
The IU East nursing program took a night to note 40 years of growth, “Honoring the Past, Treasuring the Present, and Embracing the Future,” on October 3 at Forest Hills Country Club. The anniversary coincided with a fund-raising gala that is held every two years for the program. “It was very nice,” Clark says. “We had the opportunity to celebrate nursing.” The evening included dinner and a champagne toast to IU East’s growth.
Former deans and alumni were among the 160 attendees, including LuAnne Christofaro, who earned her associate degree in 1981. Christofaro is a prior Distinguished Alumni awardee of IU East and currently serves as Reid Hospital’s executive director of nursing.
The money raised through the event will help reach more students such as event speakers Brooke Sahm and Tyler Evans.
Sahm is a senior working toward her BSN. She said she wants to become an oncology nurse because her father died from cancer when she was 2 years old. She also has battled hearing issues that included multiple surgeries as a child.
“Brooke’s speech was inspiring,” says Clark. “Her story illustrates the passion that many of our students bring to the profession of nursing.”
Evans talk demonstrated the opportunities that IU East graduates have in the health care arena, she said. He is working on his master’s after receiving his bachelor’s in 2013. He has worked in ICU and transitional care and is now transitioning to a position in cardiac rehabilitation. Evans spoke about how the IU East program “prepared him with a variety of experiences,” Clark says.
The growing variety and program reflects national trends and goals.
“The national goal is to have 80 percent (of graduates) at baccalaureate or higher level by 2020,” Clark says. “There is a recognition there is a different level of thinking. They are better able to care for patients.”
Right now, 46 percent of nurses have a bachelor’s degree in Indiana. “We have a long way to go,” Clark says.
The lofty goal has resulted in offering the RN to BSN option at off-campus locations, such as the one at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton. IU East professors teach there one night a week.
“The idea is to lift the workforce,” Clark says. “Facilities are finding ways to help their nurses grow.”
Reid Hospital & Health Care Services offers a myriad of opportunities for IU East students to grow. “We have a very positive working relationship with Reid,” Clark says. “We find ways to collaborate. They are so supportive of the School of Nursing and the IU East campus.”
The closeness of Reid and IU East is an asset, Clark says. “Our relationship provides a lot of unique opportunities for our students.” IU East has over 50 agreements with regional health care providers that participate in the educational process.
She says the nursing field will keep growing and adding jobs, noting that national estimates forecast a shortage of 800,000 nurses within the next decade. “With that kind of anticipated shortage, there comes a great need for qualified nursing professionals. Nursing is a great profession and we are well placed to meet the needs of our community when it comes to nursing care.”
Photo: IU East senior nursing major Brooke Sahm (middle) spoke about her experience and ambition to be a nurse during the 2014 nursing gala held Oct. 3. Pictured are IU East Professor of History Gene Cruz-Uribe, Chancellor Kathryn Cruz-Uribe, Sahm, and her mother, Karen Sahm of Indianapolis.