History of Compassionate Care

St. Elizabeth College of Nursing Celebrates its 100th Anniversary  Utica –– St. Elizabeth College of Nursing will celebrate a century of nursing excellence in May. Since 1904 the college, conducted by the Sisters of St. Francis, has offered students a unique program, centered in extensive clinical experience and care for the entire person.  “We take great pride in assisting our students to be successful and educated nurses,” said Marianne Monahan, dean of the College of Nursing. “We also provide them with a good ethical background that makes them always want to do the right thing for the patient.” The college accepts about 100 students each year, Monahan said. “There is a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:8,” she noted. “We are a smaller school, but our students are seen as individuals.” The first class of seven women graduated in 1907. Since that time the college has graduated approximately 3,000 men and women who are academically and clinically competent to meet the challenging health needs of the community.

The college, which is part of St. Elizabeth Medical Center, offers a weekday and evening/weekend format for its Associate Degree Nursing Program. The latter format is designed to meet the needs of the adult learner who is unable to attend classes during the weekday hours. The college was the first in the state to offer this alternative schedule. St. Elizabeth College of Nursing prides itself on the strong clinical component of its program. “Our students are getting hands-on experience from the first semester with a qualified faculty,” said Monahan. “This experience is invaluable. They need to be safe and educated and know what they are doing.” Students complete a program encompassing clinical experience in a variety of settings, the primary of which is St. Elizabeth Medical Center. Other facilities utilized include Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare in Utica, University Hospital at SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, Rome Memorial Hospital and other community agencies.

“After clinical experiences in these settings, our nurses feel very qualified to walk into the workplace and function,” Monahan said. Finding competent and compassionate nurses like those who graduate from St. Elizabeth’s is tough. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects the current shortage of a few hundred thousand RNs could hit 750,000 by 2020, as baby boomers age and the nursing work force gets older. Monahan said the shortage is not reflected in the number of applicants to the college. The program had approximately 200 applicants for 2003.

As nursing numbers fluctuate, the profession is changing and becoming more complex, putting greater responsibility on nursing schools. “Nurses are seeing more patients who are sicker,” said Monahan. “At one time, a nurse could care for several patients at one time. Now most nurses can’t handle four patients.” These changes have led to the expansion of a nurse’s role to include an emphasis on patient wellness, disease prevention and health education, not only for patients but also for their family members. “The nurse is the primary educator of the patients and their families,” Monahan said. “They need to teach them in terms of medicine and when to call a doctor.”

According to Monahan, the average age of a nursing student is 27. “The majority of our students have previous college and work experience,” she said. “Some have already worked in the health field as firemen or EMT’s and want to improve their status to become an RN. Some are mothers whose children have gone to school. They have always wanted to go to nursing school, but they have had no opportunity until now.” Though different circumstances have led them to enroll at St. Elizabeth’s, the men and women committed to the nursing profession share one thing in common, Monahan said.

“They want to feel that they have made a difference in people’s lives,” said Monahan. Veronica Miller will graduate from St. Elizabeth’s College of Nursing on May 15. When choosing a nursing school, the 44-year-old mother looked at a variety of schools. What led her to choose St. Elizabeth College of Nursing is the quality of nurses the school produces. “The nursing model at St. Elizabeth’s is centered around caring,” said the former nursing assistant. “We are taught that the people we help are not just our patients. These are people that we care about.” Miller, a parishioner of St. Thomas Church in New Hartford, believes the college, particularly its instructors, has made a difference in her life. “The instructors and faculty have an open door policy,” she said. “They value you just as much as what they are doing.”

Miller doesn’t know what she is more excited about — graduating in May or finally receiving her nursing pin from such a respected nursing college as St. Elizabeth’s. “St. Elizabeth’s nurses are part of an elite group,” said Miller. “They work hard to get in the college, to stay there and to keep the quality of a St. Elizabeth’s nurse after they graduate.”

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