October 2011 newsletter
As the leaves change, the rich palette of fall colors at our campuses is an experience to savor. View the slide show above for some of our best photos (click on the first photo to see a larger view with a caption about the campus).
Most campuses offer special events and tours in the fall for high school juniors and seniors. Check out the list of fall visit events and consider visiting one or more campuses.
Which one is your favorite? Tell us in a comment.
For Rita Glazebrook, a professor of nursing and department chair at St. Olaf College, the importance of future nurses having bachelor's degrees in nursing is evidenced not only by statistics but anecdotes. Glazebrook recalls a nursing student who was caring for a patient from a different cultural background. Initially, the patient wasn't very communicative with doctors or nurses. The student, who had a strong musical background, thought it might be beneficial for the patient to listen to music and began to play CDs in the hospital room.
"It was only through music that the patient began to tell their story," Glazebrook said. "That background in the arts also allowed the student to see the complexity of the patient's situation and to begin to understand how the patient's culture impacted the plan of care."
Glazebrook's example demonstrates how students at St. Olaf (and at Gustavus Adolphus College, which together comprise the Minnesota Intercollegiate Nursing Consortium or MINC, which Glazebrook directs) and their future patients benefit from holding a four-year degree.
And it's a similar story at all nine of the Minnesota private colleges and universities that offer baccalaureate degrees in nursing. As the state’s largest source of students with these degrees, Minnesota Private College Council member institutions all combine liberal arts, rigorous nursing coursework and clinical experiences. The result isn't just graduates who are well-rounded individuals — the students are also likely to become better registered nurses (RNs) when they enter the field.
"The baccalaureate-degree RN has more experience with critical thinking skills, problem solving, coordinating care and more leadership management skills than a nurse with an associate degree," Glazebrook said. "It's that whole notion of being holistic, of considering the physical, emotional, mental, sociocultural and spiritual aspects of a situation, that the baccalaureate nurse excels at."
Polly Kloster, chair and associate professor of nursing at Concordia College, agrees. Kloster emphasizes that today's health care environment is especially challenging and requires more knowledge and skill than ever before. "A baccalaureate degree provides a strong background in nursing theory and clinical skills with the addition of a range of coursework outside the discipline. Because nurses are expected to be well-prepared to function effectively as team members and to provide care for diverse populations, the combination of coursework expands their worldview to meet these challenges."
In addition, some requirements of a liberal arts education, like learning a language, become assets nurses make use of every day in their practice. Kloster said some nursing students at Concordia College choose to take additional language coursework so they are better equipped to work with diverse populations.
A need for degrees
Indeed, the need for more RNs with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Bachelor of Arts in Nursing (BAN) degrees in Minnesota and nationally has been recognized by many health care organizations. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing emphasizes the baccalaureate-level nurse as essential to the profession and has placed increased focus on a four-year degree being the basic level of education that new RNs need. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report calling for 80% of RNs in the U.S. to hold a baccalaureate degree or higher by 2020. In addition, hospitals are increasingly requiring new RN hires to have or be working towards bachelor’s degrees.
"I think we have to graduate more nurses at the baccalaureate level while also being really specific about the skills and education needed at each level of nursing," said Penelope Moyers, dean of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health at St. Catherine University.
Currently, however, about 50% of RNs nationally hold a baccalaureate degree, according to the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. The estimate of RNs in Minnesota holding a BSN or BAN degree is between 15 and 25%, less than half the national average, according to Marty Witrak, professor and dean of the school of nursing at The College of St. Scholastica.
Having RNs with bachelor's degrees by patients' bedsides can also have positive results that are measurable. Many studies have linked having a high number of baccalaureate-prepared RNs in hospitals or clinics to better patient outcomes, Witrak said. "(Having more nurses with such degrees) has been correlated with fewer medical errors in acute care situations and lower mortality rates in cardiac care units and other settings."
So, besides the obvious answer of more education, what factors might contribute to these differences in patient outcomes? "In those additional years, you're not just learning skills," Witrak said. "Becoming technically competent is important, but you want students to know why they're doing what they're doing and what to look for if it's not going right. That comes from a strong liberal arts base."
Witrak said a situation where such knowledge might be essential is in preventing hospital-acquired infections, which have been on the rise recently. In addition to using good sterile techniques, preventing such infections requires nurses to look beyond the obvious to determine why infections might be occurring — and then to analyze all the possible ways to solve the problem.
A nurse with an associate degree would know the technical skills, but might not be as strong of a critical thinker or leader. "There's a place for everyone in nursing, but the education received (at each degree level) is different," Glazebrook said.
A shortage of nurses, but plenty of challenges
Having a highly qualified nursing workforce is especially important because of the impending nursing shortage, both in Minnesota and nationally. An estimated 260,000 more RNs will be needed by 2025 nationally, according to a 2009 article in the journal Health Affairs. The shortage will likely stretch the responsibilities of those already in the field; at the same time, nurses will have to respond to the changing demographics and needs of their patients.
"The nursing shortage is probably being delayed right now because people are holding off on care for economic reasons, but those health problems aren't going away," Witrak said. "Baby boomers will continue to be an aging demographic and more nurses will be needed."
Because many of them are older, patients entering hospitals today and in the future will likely have multiple health issues, making management more complex. There will be more people who are very sick and at the end of their life, Witrak said. And the nursing workforce is aging as well, contributing to the shortage.
Nursing departments at Minnesota's Private Colleges are responding to this demand in various ways. At St. Olaf and Gustavus, MINC has maximized its enrollment in nursing programs while still maintaining high four-year graduation and near-zero attrition rates, Glazebrook said. At St. Scholastica, Witrak said enrollment has "doubled, if not tripled" in the past few years and Kloster notes that Concordia has nearly doubled its enrollment over the past six years.
In addition, St. Scholastica and Concordia both have accelerated degree programs for individuals who have a baccalaureate degree in another area and want to enter the nursing field as soon as possible. "An important solution (to the shortage) will be to continue to move nurses toward attainment of the baccalaureate degree through ladder programs," Kloster said.
Moyers agrees. "Programs that offer intentional and seamless laddering to different licensure and education levels are very important."
Specific areas within the profession are also likely to experience shortages of RNs in the coming years. RNs who can work in rural settings, with diverse populations, with the elderly and with patients who are critically ill will be in increased demand. At St. Scholastica, Witrak notes that the nursing department has been proactive in responding to the need for training in these areas, having received several federal grants to bolster their emphasis on rural healthcare and their geriatric nursing track.
Concordia College works to expose future nurses to diverse populations in the area so that they can better meet these communities' needs in the long run, Kloster said. This includes working with Native American, Somali, Bosnian, Iraqi and Chinese populations in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
The solution to the nursing shortage — and the need for more nurses with baccalaureate degrees — is likely to be complex and will take time, but nursing programs at Minnesota's Private Colleges are prepared to meet the challenge. "Colleges must be a part of the solution because they produce the nurses who will fill the vacancies to address the shortage," Kloster said.
Minnesota built an economy and a quality of life on its investment in education. There is strong evidence and wide consensus that Minnesota's economy will continue to be largely knowledge-based and the state will have to increase the proportion of the population with some form of higher education credential in order to sustain the economic success the state has enjoyed since the mid-1950s. However, in recent years, higher education finance policy has not reflected what one would expect for a state wanting to sustain or increase the education of its populace.
In 1967, higher education appropriations accounted for 17.3% of the state's general fund spending. By 2010, this proportion decreased to 10%. And estimates suggest that the proportion will continue to drop to 7.3% in 2013. Another way to examine Minnesota spending is the change in real dollars. From 1967 to 1990 state appropriations to higher education averaged an increase of over 10% per year. Since then appropriations have decreased an average 0.6% per year.
It may be more illuminating to consider higher education spending in relationship to Minnesota's share of the nation's gross domestic product, which is a measure of state economic wealth. As shown below, the percent of higher education spending in relation to gross domestic product is slightly higher in 2010 than it was in 1967. However, this masks a large increase through the years peaking between 0.94% (1982) and 0.93% (1991) before gradually decreasing from 1992 to present.
While higher education appropriations as a percent of general fund spending may give us an idea of state spending priorities of dollars available, appropriations as a percent of gross domestic product provides a better insight into how we invest in our human capital in relation to the state's overall economic performance. This is significant, given it shows that higher education investment has shrunk to levels last seen in the late 1960s.
For more information, read "Minnesota Educational Needs and Higher Education Finance Policy" from the Minnesota Private College Research Foundation.
In a tough economy, it pays to have a degree. Minnesotans with a bachelor's degree have half the unemployment rate of those with just a high school diploma.
- Bethel University Professor of Physics Emeritus Richard (Dick) Peterson has been named to the Minnesota Science and Technology Hall of Fame, which was created by the Minnesota High Tech Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota to honor individuals whose achievements in science and technology have made lasting contributions.
- Thousands of artworks from students and recent alumni will be for sale at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Art Sale, Nov. 17-19. As the nation's largest college art sale, it has a reputation as the metro's top destination for affordable, appreciable artwork by leading-edge artists who are creating what's next.
- Architect Frank Gehry's famous Winton Guest House has opened on the University of St. Thomas campus in Owatonna, culminating a three-year effort to move the internationally acclaimed "sculpture" from the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
- Augsburg College hosted a visit by Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja. A peace pole was commissioned and dedicated to their majesties in honor of Augsburg's work with the Norwegian Nobel Institute on the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, the college's Norwegian heritage, and its relationship with the people of Norway. The King and Queen also visited St. Olaf College. See the round-up of media stories.
- The Huffington Post has named Macalester College to two of its college lists. "Colleges For Visionaries" is a list of nine colleges that "encourage young minds to flourish in unique ways," and "The New Ivy League: Unigo List" is a list of 11 colleges that "match the Ivies in terms of rigor and vigor."
- Seth Brown, a 2002 graduate of Saint John's University, a current graduate student in Educational Leadership at Concordia University, St. Paul, and an eighth grade math teacher at Wayzata West Middle School, was recently awarded the Milken Educator Award. The Milken Award includes a cash prize of $25,000. Brown plans to pay for graduate school and make a donation to the PTA.
- Many of our campuses host special fall events and tours for high school juniors and seniors. Find out more about fall events and schedules — and consider sharing the link with others.
- Anne Marie Leland of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, is featured on the LearnmoreMN blog this month. Read her post, "Helping adult learners be successful" and consider joining the conversation by adding your comment. Vallay Varro of the education reform advocacy group, MinnCAN, will be blogging in November.
- The "Giving in Minnesota 2011" report was released by the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Education continues to be one of the strongest categories for philanthropy.