When Pitt-Johnstown’s Class of 2013 holds commencement ceremonies tomorrow, 22 of their number will represent the first fruits of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program launched nearly four years ago at the University of Pittsburgh’s largest branch campus.
There has been an RN to BSN program at Pitt-Johnstown for nearly three decades, and in 2009, as part of the University’s five-year strategic plan to introduce new degree programs, the full-fledged BSN program was established with a freshman class of 26. President Jem Spectar recognized the need to expand Pitt-Johnstown’s health-related programming, and saw opportunity in the growing number of local nursing aspirants. “This was a chance to respond to the increasing need for nurse practitioners in rural Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Spectar, “and to be more responsive to our surrounding community. This was a broad-based effort, and we are very grateful for the support we have received from the Greater Johnstown region.”
During that first year, nursing program director (now Vice-president of Academic Affairs and Chair, Division of Nursing and Health Sciences) Janet L. Grady and her faculty team worked overtime to put into place all the elements required for the curriculum, based on the University of Pittsburgh Nursing School. “The new building was still on the drawing board,” Dr. Grady recalled. “It is challenging to start a new academic endeavor, but we were determined to achieve a high level of competency and satisfaction, not only for our students, but the faculty as well.” As that first class progressed to their second year, a key element of their BSN classroom facilities —the anatomic mannequin-equipped Nursing Skills Laboratory— was installed. Dr. Grady is well pleased with this vanguard class. “They have worked so hard both in the classroom and on the clinical units in local hospitals and other health care facilities,” she said. “The faculty and I have heard so many positive comments about them from patients, families, and nurses in the community who have seen them in action.”
Ferndale Borough resident Nathan Adam, 22, transferred into the Pitt-Johnstown program after one semester at Waynesburg University. He is has been the treasurer for the student nurse association since its inception and has routinely volunteered his time to organization events. “It feels great to be in the first graduating class,” he said. “I’m greatly honored to be part of a milestone class, and light the way for future classes.” Adam plans to join a “Step Down” Intensive Care Unit, and hopes to return to school to become a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
Sarah Varner also hopes to hone her nursing skills set for a few years before pursuing her goal to become a nurse practitioner. The 23-year-old Johnstown native appreciated the opportunity to earn her BSN locally instead of having to attend a city institution. “I have really enjoyed the program,” she said. “It has been hard work, but it is completely worth it. The professors are wonderful.”
Temporarily lodged in the first floor of Blackington Hall, the Nursing program will soon occupy permanent quarters in the new Nursing and Health Sciences building now under construction adjacent to the Science and Engineering building. “We have watched the progress of the construction with great anticipation,” observed President Spectar. “Finally, our nursing and health sciences programs will be under one roof, with state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms.”
Not a moment too soon, as enrollment has grown each year since 2009. There are now 136 undergraduates in the program, not including the incoming fall 2013 freshman class.
Founded in 1927, Pitt-Johnstown is located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The University offers a high-quality educational experience in a supportive living-learning environment designed to prepare students for the real world of the 21st century. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization." Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past three years.