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Meeting Educational Needs for Over 30 Years

nursing students with doll

The UT Tyler College of Nursing and Health Sciences had its humble beginnings in 1975. It was established on the campus of what was then Texas Eastern University in response to a local and regional need for baccalaureate prepared nurses in East Texas.

“The original program was designed to help nurses complete the bachelor of science in nursing degree,” said Dr. Linda Klotz, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

By 1979, Texas Eastern University had become The University of Texas at Tyler and the UT Board of Regents approved a basic program leading to a bachelor of science in nursing. The program offered its first classes in the fall of 1982.

The goal, then and now, was to prepare nursing students by focusing on core knowledge and clinical competency, as well as critical thinking and interpersonal caring. Through these principles, the UT Tyler nursing program has exploded in size, impact and influence, especially in recent years.

“When I came to UT Tyler in 1989, we had maybe 15 to 20 students per class with one instructor per course,” said Dr. Pam Martin, associate dean for undergraduate programs. “Now, we have 60 full-time faculty and 120 to 140 students per class.”

She said the program annually has nearly 500 generic nursing students working toward their BSN, with an additional 50- plus registered nurses on track to obtain the BSN. “We have a very large program for this size campus,” Dr. Martin said.

Currently, the College of Nursing ranks No. 2 in size throughout the state of Texas. As enrollment increased over the years, the nursing program facility was soon bursting at the seams. Located upstairs in the science and math building, conditions were crowded. “I don’t know how we survived,” Dr. Susan Yarbrough, associate dean for graduate programs, said.

Then, in 2003, the nursing program on the Tyler campus moved into the new two-story David G. and Jacqueline M. Braithwaite building – housing three large lecture halls, study labs, computer labs, clinical labs, a research workroom, faculty offices and more.

High-Tech Facility
The new facility expanded the program’s ability to reach students – both physically and through technology. Two nursing skills labs and two health assessment labs, along with nurse practitioner rooms, give students an environment to put their skills into action.

“In these labs, students learn how to take blood pressure readings … learn what to look and listen for in patients,” said Dr. Yarbrough.

The labs are equipped with mechanical mannequins that talk, breathe, cough and make heart sounds. Dr. Martin said, “They are very lifelike. We have pregnant ones, babies and children. We can make the mannequin have a heart attack as part of critical thinking training. We teach students what to do in an emergency situation. The mannequins help them learn to think on their feet when they encounter multiple situations and everything is going wrong. We give them a variety of experiences.”

Satellite Campuses
classroomHigh-tech classrooms on campus are also equipped for interactive television broadcasting to and from other sites. This state-of- the-art equipment allowed the College of Nursing to open satellite campuses in Palestine in 1995 and Longview in 1997.

“We have about 90 to 100 nursing students at each satellite campus,” Dr. Martin said. “Every baccalaureate class we teach for unlicensed students is live, interactive video with full-time faculty at each site. Each site is a fully self-contained campus with clinical experiences and instructors. For some students, the first time they come to the UT Tyler campus is when they graduate.”

At the Palestine and Longview campuses, students have access to faculty members that represent every course taught. Faculty members from each campus team-teach or support each other in the lectures.

“There is one instructor on each campus for every course taught,” said Rebecca Cheek, clinical instructor for the Palestine campus. “There is a resource person for each course if a student needs to talk about a particular topic. They don’t have to wait to get the instructor in Tyler on the phone, drive to Tyler or wait for email. They can come to us with questions. We are very open to that.”

Cheek said the satellite campuses serve a critical need in the outlying regions of East Texas. “We have students from Houston, the Corsicana area, the Centerville area and others that drive to this campus rather than all the way to Tyler,” she said. “Our campus better fits in with their schedules. And our students do really well. We’ve graduated quite a few in the past 12 years.’’

Tara Patton, a 2005 BSN graduate, said the Palestine campus gave her the option to pursue a career change as a wife and mother of three. “Being established where I am, this campus was the only accessible choice for me. Without it, there would have been no way for me to be able to pursue my dream of finishing college and becoming a nurse.”

Patton, a registered nurse with The University of Texas Medical Branch in Tennessee Colony, said attending the Palestine campus was economical, convenient and very rewarding. “Nursing is a challenge, but I always felt very supported and like I had help where I needed it. That is what helped me to be successful as a student. We also had a great group of students. We supported each other.”

The satellite campuses offer both undergraduate and graduate level courses. Tammi Short of Longview graduated in 2002 with a master of science in nursing as a family nurse practitioner.

“The family nurse practitioner program is very strong,” said Short, who completed her core courses at the UT Tyler Longview University Center. “They have worked hard to develop a system that provides students the highest quality of education possible.”

Online Access
Through modern technology, Dr. Martin said higher education is attainable for busy nurses. “We have one of the most advanced programs when it comes to technology,” she said.

Nurses have the option to receive baccalaureate or master’s degrees totally online. “RNs cannot take off work to go to school,” Dr. Martin said. “They have families and job commitments. They need a program that is very flexible. They do not have time to come here. We offer everything online so they can work full-time jobs, go to school and earn their degrees.”

Dr. Yarbrough said the goal is to provide options that will enable UT Tyler to continue growing and graduating quality nursing students for the next 30 years and more.

COLLEGE OF NURSING OVER 30 YEARS

1975 Division of Nursing established on campus of Texas Eastern University
1979 Texas Eastern University becomes The University of Texas at Tyler
1982 First BSN classes offered 1989 First MSN courses offered
1992 Initial accreditation received
1995 Palestine Distance Education Initiative approved
1997 Division of Nursing received status as School of Nursing
1997 Longview Distance Education Initiative approved by the BNE
1999 School of Nursing becomes College of Nursing
2001 College of Nursing designated as College of Nursing and Health Sciences
2003 New Braithwaite building opened
2003 Undergraduate program received full accreditation status from the Texas board of Nurse Examiners
   
A look at growing enrollment:
1998 237 total students
2003 363 total students
2005 563 total students

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