With what many consider a flawed health care system in the U.S., it was only a matter of time before someone saw the problems and attempted to fix them.
Enter Heather Young, the new associate vice chancellor for nursing and dean of the newly proposed UC Davis Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
Young has plans on changing one aspect of the current health care system – the education of nurses, training them to become leaders in the workforce with knowledge of cutting-edge technology and research.
A UC Davis alumna, Young is in the process of starting a nursing school from the ground up with the graduate program beginning in the fall of 2010 and the undergraduate program to start in fall 2011.
Young‘s experience in nursing has only bettered her understanding of the health care system, the need for highly trained nurses, and what needs to be done to fix it.
“I have been a nurse for a long time and I‘ve had a lot of time to think about what was wrong with the system and the things I would change if I was in charge,“ Young said. “Having a chance to shape something from the ground up is very meaningful [to me].“
Young said she is enthusiastic and up to the challenge of starting a new school.
“It‘s a challenge [to start a nursing school] and the thing that is interesting about it is that you‘re dealing with so many different parts of a puzzle,“ Young said.
Many of those puzzle pieces include designing programs for the classes, space planning for a potential new building, and a lot of bureaucracy – including fundraising, developing relations with the community to best serve the needs of the area, recruiting faculty and developing relationships with future collaborators.
All of this is possible because of the support of $100 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, whose goal is to advance environmental conservation and cutting-edge scientific research and to improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding areas.
The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing‘s mission will be to foster nursing excellence by an extensive educational model that incorporates scientific rigor with interprofessional education for its students. The school aims to graduate health care professionals who will have an immense impact on the health care system, according to the school‘s website.
The program‘s uniqueness will stem from its five core attributes. The first of which is an interprofessional and interdisciplinary environment where many different students will have an opportunity to participate in teams.
“[It will] provide an opportunity for [the students] to work in a team environment from the get-go versus being separated during their educational years and being thrown out in the real world into health professional teams,“ said Jennette Carrick, the communications officer of the proposed nursing school.
The second and third core attributes involved scientific and research emphasis and technology. The school will have the latest in technology so that nursing students will be able to use the tools they would eventually need in the work place, Carrick said.
The last two attributes include leadership education and cultural awareness and sensitivity. The goal of the program is to educate students who will become leaders in research, nurse education, and of nursing in general.
Although the undergraduate program has no set curriculum or admission standards at the present moment, the curricula for doctors and nursing students will have much overlapping. Despite the curriculum overlap, as Young explains, nurses will need to learn much more than the diseases.
“Nurses are very interested in how patients respond to health and illness in their lives,“ Young said. “Our focus is coaching patients, helping people make good decisions for prevention, comforting and making people more comfortable, and [helping patients] manage their life transitions. Nurses think about health in a broader way that includes the family and social context.“
Young foresees different types of people who want to take risks and shape their education by wanting admission to this school of nursing.
“Different kinds of people who will be more adventurous and who want to change the system will want to come here,“ Young said. “[They‘ll be able to] shape what education will look like because we‘ll be asking these first students for a lot of feedback to see what we are doing right or wrong.“
Although sounding counterintuitive, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing will begin their master and doctorate programs first, before the undergraduate programs.
This is because it takes a while to write for grants and get the funding necessary to begin research. Once established, graduate students will have a solid base for the program and so when the undergraduate program starts, they too can participate in research with the faculty.
Currently, only three schools in the University of California system have nursing programs. UCSF has only a graduate school while UCLA has graduate and undergraduate programs. UC Irvine only has a program for undergraduates but is looking to expand with a graduate school.
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.