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Nursing and Health Professions Becomes its own Department in CEHS

Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

the Health Science Library Building at the USU Blanding campus

Courses are offered at a number of sites around the state, including the Health Science Library Building (HSL) on the USU Blanding campus.

USU's Travis Peterson heads the Nursing and Health Professions Department

Travis Peterson heads the new Nursing and Health Professions Department in USU's Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

While Utah State University has been involved in nursing programs since 2010, it is now creating a new department — Nursing and Health Professions — which finds its new home in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.

This means better opportunities for USU students statewide, and better outcomes for the people they serve after they graduate. These benefits will affect rural Utah, the Logan campus and the state as a whole.

Utah faces several challenges in the nursing field — hurdles that the new Nursing and Health Professions Department will continue to address.

“Right now it is extremely hard to get registered nurses to relocate to a rural facility,” said Travis Peterson, the new department head. “We will be training people in those communities who stay in those communities.”

Plans are in place to extend the USU nursing program to additional regional campuses, as well as the Logan campus.

Peterson was formerly the vice provost of USU’s Regional Campuses and Distance Education. He already knows of the successes of the nursing program. It currently operates from the Utah State University Eastern campuses in Price and Blanding, and the USU Uintah Basin campus in Vernal. The new department has 14 full-time faculty members, and most of them are located in those three sites.

The new department will better serve the needs of those faculty, Peterson said. However, the effects of the nursing program on their communities is already being felt. Fifty percent of recent graduates from the Blanding campus were Native Americans from the Four Corners region.

“Almost every one of them returned to their communities to work in areas that have tremendous needs related to health care,” Peterson said.

The Uintah Basin campuses serve a lot of nontraditional students who already have jobs and families, said Susan Rasmussen, who directs the nursing program in Vernal.

“They are serious and committed and understand the positive impact they can have on the health of their communities,” she said. For many, basic math and science courses were years in the past, and passing the prerequisites and the rigorous nursing courses demands the support and commitment of themselves, their spouses, children and extended families.”

The Nursing and Health Professions department will build on the foundation already provided by USU Eastern and USU Uintah Basin, Peterson said. What’s more, the new department offers some additional, allied health programs. A one-year certificate is currently available in medical assisting and an associate’s degree medical laboratory technician program is offered in Blanding. Certified nursing assistant programs are offered in Blanding and Price.

Within a year, the Medical Assistant program will be available in Price as well.

The department is also exploring the possibility of a four-year, bachelor’s nursing program on the Logan campus. That would be good news for students who want to study nursing and eventually advance in their careers, said Sandra Nadelson, director of nursing programs and assistant department head.

It would also be great news for patients, who tend to have better outcomes in hospitals with a higher percentage of nurses with four-year degrees.

In addition, more nurses with baccalaureate degrees would be good for the state of Utah. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the number of nurses with four-year degrees in the United States should increase to 80 percent by 2020.

In 2012, the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees who took the NCLEX Board Exam in Utah made up just 25 percent of the total. (NCLEX is the licensing examination used for nursing in the U.S.) Nationally, 41 percent of those who took the exam had bachelor’s degrees.

The numbers show the need, and they explain the enthusiasm Peterson has met while he works to build a new department. The new structure will help meet the needs of students, faculty and the community they will serve, he said.

“We’ll be enhancing the quality and curriculum of those programs.”

Degrees currently offered:

Practical Nursing Program (working toward LPN licensure)

USU Eastern (Price and Blanding)

Associate Degree Nursing Program (working toward RN licensure)

USU Eastern (Price and Blanding)

USU Uintah Basin (Vernal campus)

Medical Assisting (1 year certificate)

Blanding campus

Medical Laboratory Technician (associate’s degree program)

Blanding campus

Certified Nursing Assistant (less than one year)

Blanding and Price

Related links:

Contact: Travis Peterson,

Writer: JoLynne Lyon, 435-797-1463

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