The Hornet Nurse - The Nursing Chapter of the Sacramento State Alumni Association
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History of the Division of Nursing

If this were a time capsule to be opened in a new century, what would the next generation find of interest about the School of Nursing at Sacramento State? The following is a written history of the School (with thanks to Marilyn Hopkins):

The Sacramento State College General Catalog of 1950-1951 was the first to advertise curricular offerings for already licensed Registered Nurses (RNs) desiring a Bachelor of Arts degree. Nurses were often advised to major in health education through the Division of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. In the fall of 1951, the College implemented a baccalaureate degree pattern for those wanting to major in nursing education in preparation for roles as nursing faculty members and school nurses. The College also provided the coursework necessary to sit for the Public Health Nursing certificate examination. Nurses who sought formal teaching positions in secondary education were encouraged to take an additional year of studies after the BA was completed and to major and minor in subjects commonly taught in the schools, such as health education, first aid, and basic home nursing. Nurses pursuing graduate studies were advised to select a major for study which could the basis of later graduate work. Minors in business administration, accounting, or personnel administration were recommended for nurses interested in excecutive positions in private, public, and governmental health care agencies.

In 1957, visionary College President Guy West saw the need for a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing preparing students for initial RN licensure, public health, and school nursing. He charged Associate Professor Anna Steffen with developing the program and named her as Chairperson of the Department of Nursing in the Division of Science and Mathematics. In the fall of 1958, the Chairperson along with six faculty and 38 students started classes in the new program. The nursing major consisted of 37 units of upper division nursing courses and 15 units of related courses in Chemistry, Education, Home Economics, Psychology, and Sociology. The following year, a total of 53 students were admitted to the nursing program.

The first class of pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing students completed their degrees in 1962, receiving the traditional nursing cap and the diamond-shaped class pin imprinted with the letters SSC DN (Sacramento State College Department of Nursing). The program received initial national accreditation by the National League for Nursing (NLN) also in 1962. By 1967, nursing became a free-standing academic department. The program office was relocated to Food Service 209, a room in a building near the campus quad which had been the first campus bookstore.

During the early 70’s the demand for the nursing program exceeded capacity with 500 applications annually for 68 places in the clinical program. Pre-nursing majors also soared to over 400 per year. The nursing program officially became an "impacted" major. As a result the program added supplemental admission criteria to rank students based on NLN examination performance, panel interview, prerequisite grade point average, and letters of reference. Newly admitted students tended to be older, have degrees in other areas, and be making significant career changes. Registered Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses also returned to school to pursue baccalaureate degrees in great numbers. Throughout the decade, there was also a marked increase in the number of male applicants to the program. Division Chairperson Mary (Molly) Goldberg, who replaced retiring Anna Steffen in 1971, noted,

"Along with the need for adequate admission critera, nurse educators had not been accustomed to the number of applicants, the demands of legislators, educators, and families, the aggression of students - all the sub-parts to the whole of too many applicants! Picketing, angry phone calls, newspaper reports, threats of grievance - all these new experiences and new relationships between student and teacher, teacher and community took a large part of the Division's work during the years 1972-1976."

In 1978 Mary Goldberg retired and was replaced by Dorothy White for one year, followed by Annita Watson, who served as Chairperson from 1979-1998.

The physical location of the Department of Nursing moved in 1971 to more spacious quarters on the third floor of the Science Building (now Sequoia Hall) where a state-of-the-art skills laboratory and large classrooms were available for student learning. The following year the department entered into a partnership with UC San Francisco to bring the UCSF master's in nursing program to the Sacramento State campus. This innovative, one-time program represented a unique collaboration resulting in 16 MSN graduates. Faculty proposals in subsequent years for a graduate program were scuttled until the following decade, yet other creative programs emerged. In 1974, curricular coordinator Carolyn Schmidt developed a very successful External Degree Track preparing 566 previously licensed RNs with the BS degree from 1974 to 1979. In 1976, the campus was one of three in the state to offer a school nurse credential program, coordinated by Susan Proctor from its inception through the early part of 2000.

The 1980's saw a new name and new face for the department. A reorganization of campus departments incorporated the program into the newly formed School of Health and Human Services and renamed it the Division of Nursing. Around 1980, nursing could be found in a variety of temporary buildings located near the Guy West footbridge on the east side of campus (where Parking Structure I now stands). Challenges included teaching in a Skills Laboratory without running water for hand washing and dealing with the physical isolation of being removed from the central hub of the campus. A few years later in 1983, the Division took occupancy of El Dorado Hall, formerly known as "the nursing building," and earlier still as the home of the State of California Department of Fish and Game. Although the new building boasted the most desirable access to parking lots, negative aspects included the need for shared faculty offices, temperamental heating and air conditioning, and increasingly cramped spaces for burgeoning student enrollment. Since finding the building proved a frequent mystery to off campus visitors, the faculty began to refer to the Division of Nursing location as between the “kids” (University Child Care Center) and the “cops” (Public Safety Building).

In 1986, a Master of Science degree in nursing was finally created. Graduate Coordinator Robyn Nelson welcomed 30 students to the new program for preparing educators and administrators with advanced clinical preparation in the area of adult, family-community, or school nursing. Candis McDonald was the first graduate, receiving her MSN in 1988.

In 1991, the Division formed an affiliation with the UC Davis Family Nurse Practitioner Program to offer the MS to the FNP students. The program was a model for CSU and UC collaboration with students taking classes on both campuses. Another collaborative venture occurred in 1993 when graduate faculty took the MSN program to 21 active-duty military nurses and military dependents at David Grant Medical Center on Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield. This weekend program prepared administrators with an adult clinical focus. In 1995, graduate faculty worked with faculty at CSU Chico to bring the master's program to rural students in northern California. Compressed video technology with two-way audio and video capability was used to broadcast live from Sacramento to a group of students on Chico State's campus. In later years, this educational delivery method reached students on the campuses of CSU Stanislaus and Solano Community College. Overseeing this rise in distance education was Robyn Nelson who served as Division of Nursing Chairperson from 1998 through 2005.

Division of Nursing faculty entered the 21st century facing enormous challenges - a critical nursing shortage in California and the nation, an aging nursing workforce, an aging faculty, and a complex and stressful healthcare environment. Amidst the national campaign by Johnson & Johnson to promote nursing as a career, the Division increased enrollment to 120 clinical nursing students annually in response to community demand. In 2002, over 50 master's students were admitted with expanded options to prepare as clinical nurse specialists or case managers. The Division was an active participant in work toward aligning the prerequisites for nursing throughout the CSU and in planning curricular partnerships with the community college system. Thus, the Division entered into a collaborative agreement with Sacramento City College in 2002 to offer a seamless transition for RN students from the community college to the CSU. This program was the first collaborative curriculum approved by the Board of Registered Nursing in California. Eight students graduated in Spring 2004 with both the AD and BS degrees in nursing and 6 more followed suit in 2007. A third collaborative cohort transferred from the Sacramento City College program into the existing RN to BSN program in 2010. An innovative, accerated curriculum for students with bachelor's degrees in other fields emerged in 2006 as an entry level master's program (ELM). Led by new Chairperson Ann Stoltz and ELM Coordinator Kelly Tobar, 60 ELM students took nursing courses summer-fall-spring-summer in preparation for the licensure exam, followed by two years of graduate study in the master's program. This program continued as an accelerated second bachelor's (ASB) program over the next two years. Through these programs, the Division increased overall pre-licensure admissions to 160 students per year. Meanwhile, the numbers of pre-nursing majors on the Sacramento State campus hit an all time high of nearly 1600.

As the Division celebrated its golden anniversary with a gala in May 2009, plans were afoot for a new home (yet again) for nursing. The campus auxiliary, University Enterprises, Inc., had purchased the former Cal-STRS building on Folsom Boulevard across from Sutter Center for Psychiatry. The building was in turn leased to Sacramento State and Chairperson Ann Stoltz began meetings with faculty, administration, architectural designers, and the like in order to create spaces in the new building that would meet the unique instructional needs of the nursing program.

The end of the decade saw the the bachelor's and master's degree programs continue to be actively involved in distance education, web-enhanced and web-based course delivery, service-learning community projects, and simulated learning. The Division led the community in offering educational experiences via human patient simulator technology and established CASC - the Capitol Area Simulation Coalition - to foster collaboration among schools of nursing and healthcare agencies in the rapidly developing arena of simulated learning. Despite the economic downturn, the Folsom Hall remodel began in earnest during the summer of 2010. Appreciative faculty and staff presented the contractors and their employees with a thank you lunch at the end of the fall 2010 semester - a first of its kind, according to the contractor, but well-deserved given the speed and quality of the work.

January 2011 saw the Division of Nursing move into the new 60,000 square foot space in Folsom Hall. There were frequent visits by alums, donors, prospective students, media and other guests all interested in the facilities and programs. As part of a campaign to engage alums and the larger community, the Division established its first foray into social media by launching a page on Facebook. The culmination of the move was the Grand Opening Celebration, held May 6, 2011, where University President Gonzalez announced the Division's formal name change to the SCHOOL of Nursing. Nearly 300 people spent the evening touring the building and meeting with current students while enjoying live music, refreshments and even the Hornet Marching band!

In over a half century, the School of Nursing has grown to 30 full-time faculty, an equal number of part-time faculty, 6 staff, over 350 undergraduates, and 200 graduate students. As the only residential baccalaureate nursing program in the Sacramento region, the demand for the program still exceeds capacity. Faculty continue outreach and recruitment efforts, particularly to students from underserved populations, to ensure that the students reflect the community they intend to serve. While the School of Nursing enters the next decade, its mission remains unchanged: Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders in Nursing.


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