At the start of 2019’s fall term, Pitt-Greensburg’s recently established BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program will officially be two years old.
President Sharon P. Smith, retiring at the end of the term, was able to shed some light on the current state of the nursing program and the future of it.
Kendrick: “So last time we spoke, we talked about your retirement, how has everything been since then?”
President Smith: Oh I am fine, we have a lot of stuff currently underway. Things have been humming and I want to keep them that way. We want to keep the good things going and getting better－like the nursing program, it has taken off, but we still don’t have a full school because we can only recruit a class a year.
Kendrick: Is it true that Pitt-Greensburg launched the first BSN nursing program in Westmoreland County ever?
Smith: Yes, and we are in our second class. Officially the program was approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing in early april 2017, and that is also when we started recruiting students for the program.
Kendrick: What is it like to see your vision of the Pitt-Greensburg BSN nursing program come to fruition?
Smith: Just wonderful, I was the chair of the board of Excela Health, and I served on that board for nine years. I care deeply about the quality of healthcare and particularly about the quality of healthcare here in this area. I know we have faced a national shortage of nurses, and its particularly acute in Westmoreland County. So that being said it was a spectacular opportunity to be able to partner with the Pitt School of Nursing. With their generous partnership we were able to launch a fully accredited nursing program in lightning time.
Kendrick: And this nursing program was accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)?
Smith: Yes. You can’t open a nursing school unless the state approves. In our instance because we are Pitt-Nursing in Westmoreland County we could be accredited as well by this commission. Otherwise we would have had to wait until after we graduated our first class. So we were able to be accredited within weeks of state approval as well.
Kendrick: So then our nursing program is also approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing?
Smith: Yes, that was the first piece.
Kendrick: What is CCNE really?
Smith: Well, its an accrediting body. Professional schools have a variety of accrediting bodies. For example, the premiere accrediting body for business schools is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The Bar Association accredits law schools. It’s a professional entity.
Kendrick: Would you say this CCNE accreditation is what sets Pitt-Greensburg apart from other new nursing programs in Westmoreland County, like Seton Hill?
Smith: Well, its being Pitt-Nursing. While this is a new physical operation for Pitt-Nursing, the Pitt School of Nursing has been around for upwards of 75 years. We have these decades of experience, and connections. And that distinguishes us because we are Pitt Nursing. It’s the Pitt-Nursing curriculum.
Kendrick: An article published by the Tribune Review states we received $1.5M Katherine Mabis Mckenna Foundation for the nursing program is this true?
Smith: Yes, They have been a major supporter of this campus for as long as it has been around. We did receive a grant of $1.5M for the nursing program. It is coming in over three years. The first check was paid before this passed christmas.
Kendrick: Should the campus expect a new nursing building?
Smith: A new science building will be coming, that is live, on Jan, 31 we applied for a regional development grant from the state. In the planning for the new building there were some physical things that made us have to re-examine the development of this building. This building is to address the growing needs of not just the nursing majors but all our science majors. Because half of our students major in the sciences and the other half have to take sciences if they take their gen-eds here.
Kendrick: Aside from the regional development grant, are the funds for the building coming from the 1.5M, the endowment fund, where is the money for this building going to come from?
Smith: Well there is no “endowment fund” the endowment to pitt is for specific things, for example someone gives money for a new field, or scholarships. So endowed funds are generally given for a specific purpose. A proportion of 1.5M could go towards the building, it is for the nursing program. Any construction on any campus has to go through a variety of facilities committees that are central to the university. This being said there will be a building. There are plans in progress.
Kendrick: The Tribune Review reports that our nursing program is projected to have 300 students by the year 2020 are these projections true?
Smith: Well, eventually the forecast was that we would be taking in just under 70 students a year as first-time freshman. We figured it would take us about four years to reach that target number. So in order to eventually get around 300 students total it would take four years of your target class. Additionally we want to form an articulation agreement with the three C’s for their two-year nurses to transfer into us. That agreement will be established next year. The only reason we aren’t doing it this year is because this is an accreditation year for the whole program. We plan to have roughly 10-15 students coming in as the equivalent of juniors, so in total we would probably be graduating 65-75 nursing students every year. and the total enrollment in the nursing program would be just shy of 300. We aren’t projecting this will happen until 2024.