Students at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) are benefiting from a new facility that is intended to improve their retention and graduation rates. The Student Success Center (SSC), specifically designed to meet the needs of pre-licensure students, was officially unveiled during a grand opening ceremony Oct. 3.
The SSC is funded by a four-year, $980,000 grant through the Who Will Care? Campaign, an initiative to increase the number of nurse graduates in the state by 1,500 per year, thereby helping to alleviate a shortage of professional nurses. The campaign, established in 2007, has attracted broad-based support from hospital, insurance, business, and academic leaders; nurses; long-term care providers; and concerned private citizens.
The University of Maryland Medical System, LifeBridge Health, and Mercy Health System were honored during the ceremony for having designated contributions to the statewide campaign for UMSON. The campaign, under the leadership of the Maryland Hospital Association, has raised $17 million for 23 nursing education programs in Maryland.
"It was an amazing accomplishment to raise that amount of money to support nursing education in the state," said UMSON Dean Janet Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN, who opened the ceremony by thanking the donors. "This was a major need of our students," she said of the SSC, which was conceptualized as a campus model.
Allan was a co-author of the grant, along with Sandra McLeskey, PhD, RN, professor, and Patricia Morton, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at UMSON, who led the grant team. Morton said each grant application differed, depending on the needs of the various nursing programs statewide. At UMSON, the team saw the need to assist Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Clinical Nurse Leader students by creating a center with a full array of services to promote success in their nursing studies.
"The SSC will increase the retention rate and timely graduation of our pre-licensure students," said Morton. "For instance, some students can be baffled by a clinical case scenario in test-taking. The SSC will familiarize them with the format, so they can better demonstrate their grasp of the material."
McLeskey said, "We admit highly qualified students, but our nursing curriculum is extremely rigorous. I have always wanted a Schoolwide mechanism to help these very smart students over the bumps in the road they may encounter on their way to becoming outstanding nurses. The SSC is the fulfillment of this need, and I am so happy it is finally here."
University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan, PhD, attended the official opening and is shown, far right, in the photo above. Also pictured, from left to right, are University of Maryland President Jay A. Perman, MD; Allan; Morton; Robert Chrencik, MBA, CPA, president and chief executive officer, University of Maryland Medical System; and Carmela Coyle, PhD, president of the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA).
Kirwan said it is a major imperative for the system to respond to workforce needs in key fields such as nursing, noting the SSC is "right at the sweet spot" of system initiatives and priorities by helping to meet two key goals of a strategic plan for 2020. The first is to have 55 percent of the state's young adult population holding a degree; the second is enhancing Maryland's competitiveness and meeting vital workforce needs.
"By helping nursing students succeed academically by becoming more efficient and effective learners, you are helping to ensure that more nursing students complete their degrees," Kirwan said.
Perman said the center's task of helping students succeed by assisting with study skills, writing skills, and clinical performance enriches the University. "Everybody's boats are raised," he said. "Here is further evidence that the University cares about its students and what they become."
Coyle discussed the MHA-led Who Will Care? campaign and shared her personal and family's recent health struggles. Describing the vital role of nurses, she said, "We had a tremendous system of support, but it was our nurses who pulled us through.
"Maryland's hospitals look forward to seeing many graduates flowing from the University of Maryland School of Nursing by way of the Student Success Center," Coyle said.
Chrencik spoke of the "strong partnership" between UMSON and the University of Maryland Medical Center. He called the opening of the SSC a significant milestone for the School in its goal to educate students who come from many walks of life. "We are proud to be supporting that journey," he said.
The UMSON graduated 625 students in 2010, and currently has more than 760 entry-level students among its more than 1,700 enrollees, making it the largest nursing school in Maryland and one of the largest in the nation.