There’s something special about the second floor of the Wyse Building on Goshen College campus.
It’s the nursing department, the college’s most popular major, and the state of Indiana’s first nursing baccalaureate program. Students walk in and out of staff offices, some wearing scrubs and others in jeans and t-shirts — they’re handing in assignments, hosting meetings, or casually chatting with professors. In adjacent rooms, one class learns to administer IVs while another practices intercultural communication.
Here in the nursing department, there’s no separation between preparing to enter the healthcare field and, very simply, learning to care.
Since 1950, the Goshen College nursing program has graduated an uncommon breed of healthcare professionals. Not only are students taught clinical reasoning, they’re nurtured through an academically rigorous process of learning to care for the whole patient, mind and spirit.
Today, the department offers multiple tracks towards achieving a nursing degree: There’s the bachelor’s of science in nursing program, the RN-BSN program, Master of Science in Nursing degree program (under the direction of Professor of Nursing Ruth Stoltzfus, a 1979 GC alumna) to become a family nurse practitioner or a clinical nurse leader. The RN-BSN program has also began a partnership with Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Michigan.
So what makes Goshen College-educated nurses different than those from other programs? The answer, says nursing professor and chair of the department Brenda Srof, is a historical one.
“The program philosophy goes back to the school’s commitment to Anabaptist values,” says Srof. “The program is deeply rooted in service to others. Someone had a vision back in the beginning to have a baccalaureate program with a commitment to both liberal arts and nursing arts.”
Current number of students in the Master’s program
Current number of students in the RN-BSN program
Current number of students in the BSN program
Percent satisfaction after graduation from all three programs
Percent of GC students in Nursing Programs
Percent of male Nursing Programs students
Percent of Latino students in the undergraduate class of 2018
In their 62nd year of graduating students from the bachelor’s program, nursing professors feel a sense of pride and ownership in the program. Though some things are the same as they were in 1950 — like the traditional “pinning ceremony” for graduates, and a focus on spiritual and physical care — the program continues to grow and change with the help of passionate professors and administration.
“I love seeing the transformation in the student when they embrace the complexity that nursing requires,” says Kirkton.
Each undergraduate nursing student follows the same core curriculum as every other major. Undergraduates are encouraged to participate in the semester-long study abroad program, Study-Service Term (SST), in which students choose to travel to one of six countries. Nursing students have the unique opportunity to serve alongside local healthcare professionals within that country.
Students who don’t have the flexibility to leave for three months out of the year — for instance, those with children — could opt for the department’s new May Term course in Nepal, which launched in 2014. For three weeks, Goshen College students serve alongside Nepali nursing students.
“On the first trip, students gained an understanding about poverty, families, and the human condition that was truly life-changing,” says Srof.
Some students, however, use their intercultural communication skills without leaving Elkhart County. Kirkton says she is continually amazed at the number of Goshen grads who stay in Goshen. And, she says, many become leaders in the community.
“It’s amazing how many alumni I see when I walk over to IU Health,” says Kirkton. “They stay in the community, work in hospitals or local schools or psychiatric centers.”
Just like the city of Goshen and the college’s overall student body, the nursing department is increasingly diverse.
“Our diversity is reflected in the school’s goals to be a Latino-serving community,” says Srof. “We feel wonderful to make this impact on our community — to have Latino graduates working in local hospitals meets a vital need.”
All graduates who stay in the area, regardless of race or ethnicity, are important to the health of the community. As in any place, retaining alumni gives Goshen an economic boost.
For their required clinicals, nursing students are placed intentionally into local clinics and hospitals. That way, when they graduate, students have already built relationships with regional doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
“We’ve grown long-standing relationships with the healthcare community in Goshen,” says Kirkton. “They know our students to be culturally sensitive, caring, and full of integrity.”
Even after graduation, say Kirkton and Srof, the nursing faculty continues to keep an eye out for their students.
“To see them change and grow and becoming passionate about caring for others in new and different ways is very rewarding,” says Srof. “As professors, we want to make sure that when they graduate, they’re ready to go out and make a positive impact on the nursing profession.”
“[The alumni] stay in the community, work in hospitals or local schools or psychiatric centers.”
“Our diversity is reflected in the school’s goals to be a Hispanic serving community.”
“I love seeing the transformation in the student when they embrace the complexity that nursing requires.”
“Someone had a vision back in the beginning to have a baccalaureate program with a commitment to both liberal arts and nursing arts.”
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