Becker College Nursing Turns 25

Published on Monday, April 27th, 2009

Nursing at Becker College turns 25 and commemorates the occasion with “25 Years of Caring,” a reception on May 7, 2009. The event will highlight achievements of Becker nursing alumni and a celebration of graduates from the first bachelor of science in nursing class, which graduates on May 9.

The first 10 Becker nursing graduates received their pins and associate degrees in 1984. Students would change into uniform in a tiny dressing room, and they completed their clinical rotations at UMass Medical Center, Memorial Hospital, and Worcester State Hospital.

Madge McNair began as program director of the new program in 1983, managed a new group of faculty, and helped them shepherd the first graduating class. Maria Rosen, Ph.D., PNP, RN, currently director of the Becker RN-to-BSN program, was a member of the faculty at the time.
“Marge was a wonderful mentor,” said Dr. Rosen. “She taught me so much about nursing education.”

Today as many as 100 nurses graduate from Becker College each year and hone their skills and contribute their time to 10 clinical sites throughout Central Massachusetts. In the fall of 2008 these industrious students formed a chapter of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) for the first time at Becker.

“For many caring people, nursing is a dream, and they often pursue it based on an emotional experience,” said Martha Main, RN, MSN, director of the Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) program. “Then students have an ‘A-ha’ moment in Nursing 2, when they put it all together.”

Nursing education is a combination of classroom lecture, laboratory experience, and hands-on clinical time in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. Students have the added benefit of academic support from full-time faculty, above and beyond regular office hours.

In 2006, Becker dedicated the Fairlawn Foundation Nursing Laboratory. The Fairlawn Foundation awarded the college a generous grant to help underwrite the development of the bachelor of science in nursing program, which began enrolling students in 2007. The Fairlawn Foundation is a longtime partner in supporting nursing education at Becker. Numerous students have enrolled in the Becker nursing program with the help of grants from the Foundation’s Nursing Pipeline Consortium.

Dr. Rosen explained the progression of education from RN to BSN, “The two-year degree is based on clinical skills and safe, effective bedside care. The BSN focuses more on community nursing and research. We get to spend more time discussing politics and ethics and to step back and look at a broader range of topics. It provides nurses with a global view that improves their work at the bedside.”

When asked how what students learn has changed over time, Dr. Rosen replied that key elements now include evidence-based practice, a new focus on gerontology, new delivery systems, and increased attention to safety in patient care.

Another innovation enhancing nursing education and bedside care is the addition of the patient simulator, or SimMan®. According to Laerdal Medical, the company that manufactures SimMan®, the life-like mannequin “provides simulation-based education to challenge and test students’ clinical and decision-making skills during realistic patient care scenarios.”

The roots of the nursing program are firmly planted in the surrounding community. Nursing students regularly hold health screenings at a number of public locations, and students not only learn, but bolster staffing numbers at such sites as the free clinic at St. Anne’s Church in Shrewsbury, Mass.

Over 25 years, Becker College has invested millions of dollars into the nursing programs and continues to seek more in state and federal funding. Earlier this year, Becker received a $540,072 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support nursing education.

For nearly five years, the college has promoted the Becker College Nursing Initiative, a plan to strengthen nursing education and create more affordable opportunities for nursing students.

In spring of 2008, the college received approval for the continuing accreditation the ADN program by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission, for the maximum period of eight years. This nursing education stamp of approval was the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by the college’s caring faculty and a statement of the quality of the program.