In July 2000, Kansas University's School of Nursing moved into its new, multimillion dollar building on the campus of the Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Karen Miller, the school's executive dean, welcomed the move as a big step forward.
"Before, we were spread out across the campus, and the faculty had offices in an old dormitory. This is the first time the school has ever had its own facility," Miller said.
The purpose of the 103,000-square-foot facility was to enhance the school's ability to offer its students an integrated education that crosses different disciplines, as well as introduce them to the latest in medical and information technology.
As significant as the new building is for the School of Nursing, it represents perhaps only the most obvious of important developments during the past year.
"One of our biggest accomplishments this last year has been making progress in our Educational Innovations Center. These are technology-based educational improvements for both the learner and the teacher," Miller said. "We keep trying to improve our ability to meet the students' needs educationally and technologically."
The School of Nursing is continuing to expand its distance-education capacities, enabling students located both near and far from the Med Center's campus to complete the coursework component of their studies over the Internet.
"We are also becoming well known for our evaluation of distance education not only in terms of how the students are doing, but also how the faculty is doing," Miller said.
Part of the school's mission is to try to help relieve the present shortages in the nursing and allied health professions in the field.
"We're doing a lot of special recruitment and partnering with some of our junior colleges and community colleges to promote health professions as careers," Miller said. "We have an obligation to provide the health professionals that people will need in the future. We try to make that a priority for the state of Kansas and the region."
Programs at all levels
The School of Nursing is attracting attention these days for its excellence, according to Miller and others at the school.
U.S. News & World Report gave the school's master's-level programs a ranking of No. 36 from among the nation's nursing graduate schools for 2001.
Nursing school students get clinical experiences at the Med Center hospital in Kansas City, Kan., as well as at many other resources in the Kansas City area, including hospitals, industrial sites, schools, nursing homes, well-baby clinics, community health agencies and private homes.
The school offers baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees, as well as statewide continuing education programs.
Its bachelor's of science in nursing program has about 300 students. Some of these students are registered nurses returning to school to earn their B.S.N. degrees.
The school also offers graduate programs for advanced nursing practice preparation in several clinical areas, as well as majors in nursing administration and nursing education, all leading to the master's of science in nursing degree.
The doctoral program was established in 1983 to meet the increased employment demands for nurse scientists.
One important development in the school is the Collaborative Bi-State Nurse Midwifery Education Program, a partnership between the KU School of Nursing, the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Nursing, Wichita State University and Fort Hays State University.
The program was established in 1999 with a $1.3 million, three-year start-up federal grant.
The program's first class, made up of five students, celebrated the completion of their studies on June 30. The second class that will come from the program has seven students.
A nurse midwife is a registered nurse who is trained in both nursing obstetrics and in midwifery. Students need to pass a national exam in order to obtain their certification in the field.
"Our program has provided a higher level of recognition and modeling in an academic center of the services that nurse midwives provide, especially in partnership with physicians," said Ginger Breedlove, the program's education director.
"We've been very slow in the Midwest to understand as a community the role of certified nurse midwives, and that's related to not having a program in Kansas."
Prospects look bright for the students in the program's first class. It appears the five of them will secure jobs in the same geographic areas they come from.
Barbara Parker, Lawrence, is one of the five students in the first class. She is a family nurse practitioner with Lawrence Family Practice, 3510 Clinton Parkway. She is also a clinical instructor in the School of Nursing's family nurse practitioner program. Parker earned both her B.S.N. and her master's degree in nursing from KU's School of Nursing.
"For most of us, this (program) has been about 15 months of post-graduate work. Being the very first class of nurse midwives, we've had some rough spots in our educational course, but the people who are running it Ginger Breedlove and Judie Wika are incredibly supportive," said Parker, who plans to stay with Lawrence Family Practice.
The program's goal is to reach rural areas of the state with nurse midwife education, in hopes students will return to their communities to provide care, according to Wika, a senior faculty member in the program.
The addition of the nurse midwife program enhances the School of Nursing as a whole.
Wika said, "It adds another area of advanced practice that nurses can receive education in, and it certainly is on the cutting edge of obstetric practice now."