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Nursing students work on a manikin.

$3.9 million gift paves way for nursing education and leadership pipeline in South Texas

April 2010

by Rosanne Fohn

Michelle Johnston, M.S.N., has been a caregiver almost her entire life. She began as a little girl, helping her father care for her younger brother who had a congenital heart condition, after her mother abandoned the family.

"As I got older and began to understand the relationship between healing and the type of care that facilitates healing, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in people's lives in that way, as a nurse," Johnston said.

She earned her associate's degree in nursing from San Antonio College, and in December graduated with her master's degree from the UT Health Science Center School of Nursing, all while working full time and raising a family. The educational journey took 10 years.

Students like Johnston, who have big dreams and high goals, will benefit from a three-year, $3.9 million gift from Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc. that will position the School of Nursing as the leader of a new, collaborative nursing education and leadership pipeline to address the nursing shortage in South Texas.

The gift provides:

- $2.7 million for faculty and curriculum specialists to design and teach three new degree programs including:

- An accelerated Bachelor's Degree in Nursing for students who have a bachelor's degree in another field and wish to join the nursing profession. The program will begin in May 2010 with 70 students. Nurses with a bachelor's degree provide bedside care and fill entry-level management positions in hospitals.

- An accelerated online master's degree for nurses with an associate's degree in nursing. This program will begin in January 2011 with 46 students. Nurses with a master's degree can advance their careers in hospitals, become clinical faculty members or enter research.

- A Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to provide highly educated clinical nursing specialists, executive leaders and full clinical faculty members


- $235,000 for computer equipment, software, enhancements to the university's distance education program and miscellaneous expenses to support robust online learning programs in the School of Nursing

- $850,000 for simulation manikins and other equipment for the new virtual hospital to be built in the School of Nursing for use by nursing, medical and other health professionals throughout South Texas

- $150,000 in matching funds to provide scholarships for 10 DNP students

When fully implemented, the three new degree programs will help the School of Nursing admit an additional 20 traditional undergraduate students, 70 accelerated undergraduate students, 46 additional master's students and 10 DNP students a year, giving more students like Johnston the opportunity to more quickly and conveniently earn their bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree through the Health Science Center.

  Photo of the Clinical Skills Center
The new Clinical Skills Simulation Center, or virtual hospital, to be built in the School of Nursing will provide a realistic hospital setting for clinical education.
"Methodist Healthcare Ministries is a pivotal partner in our plan to graduate more nurses at all educational levels," said Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing, and the Dr. Patty L. Hawken Nursing Endowed Professor in the Department of Family Nursing Care. "A limiting factor in admitting more students has been hiring and supporting qualified nursing faculty. Many faculty members are retiring, and state dollars do not cover all of our expenses. We greatly appreciate Methodist Healthcare Ministries' philanthropic investment to bring new nurses into the workforce."

Roy R. Campbell III, chairman of the board of directors of Methodist Healthcare Ministries, said, "We are so pleased to help build the nursing pipeline. This fits perfectly with our goal of enhancing our gift to the Alamo Colleges that is at the beginning of the nursing education pipeline. The Health Science Center's new degree programs will help nurses continue their education to improve health care throughout South Texas."

Johnston's master's degree has opened a whole new range of professional opportunities, including a new job as a kidney transplant coordinator with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. But her vision doesn't stop there.

"I want to be an influence on future nurses," she said. "I will use my degree in the Administration in Community and Healthcare Systems in Nursing to focus on health care, and I plan to be an advocate for nurses and patients. I also would like to become an educator at the university level, where I can give my students what my professors gave me - a great knowledge base, continuous encouragement and support, and a confident sense of self."


(Top photo) Nursing students learn about patient care from a clinical faculty member by using a manikin programmed to simulate various patient scenarios. The Methodist Healthcare Ministries grant will provide more manikins and state-of-the-art equipment to assist with clinical education.



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