A Living Legacy 50 Years in the Making
School of Nursing celebrates a half-century of teaching excellence

Growing Pains

Despite their relatively small initial cohort, the Purdue nursing program quickly flourished. During the next three years, Johnson initiated nursing programs on all four Purdue regional campuses — Fort Wayne in 1964, Calumet in 1965 and North Central and Indianapolis in 1966. By 1969, all had successfully graduated a class and were accredited by the National League of Nursing, a voluntary accreditation sought by the top nursing schools in the nation.

Building on that success, the department in 1970 began offering an additional two-year program for students to complete a baccalaureate degree. The program became a four-year baccalaureate degree in the mid-'80s. This change not only demonstrated the growing importance of the baccalaureate but also represented the fact that most students were completing the two-year top-off baccalaureate degree. This shift to a four-year degree made the learning process more seamless for students and allowed for innovation in curriculum development because faculty could count on their students being in the program for a full four years. The two-year associate degree was still available, though much less popular.

Department of Nursing building in 1977

New Home: The Department of Nursing erected its own building in 1977. The structure provided space for classes, offices, a Learning Resource Center, meetings and a nursing clinic. The building was designed to provide for an enrollment increase as well as future technological and instructional advances. (Photo courtesy of the School of Nursing)

With the number of students rapidly increasing, the department finally erected its own building in 1977, thanks to a federal grant authored by Johnson. The new building would be devoted entirely to nursing education, a dream of Johnson and the entire program since its inception. Only two years later, the department was re-established as the School of Nursing, part of the newly formed Schools of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences unit.

"Sometimes our growth was so rapid that it was almost painful to keep up with it. But there was always great loyalty and desire among the faculty and students to make our school stand out," Johnson said at the school's 25th anniversary celebration in 1988.

Angela Barron McBride, a colleague of Johnson who became familiar with the Purdue nursing program while earning her PhD in developmental psychology at Purdue (1978) and working as a nurse in the Department of Psychological Sciences on campus, credits this rapid growth to the quality and forward-thinking nature of the Purdue nursing program.

"We were ahead of the curve in many ways," recalls McBride, who became dean of the Indiana University School of Nursing on the IUPUI campus from 1991 to 2003. "In the '70s, we were teaching our students a broad range of skills: assessment skills, problem-solving abilities, cultural competence — all of these are critical and are still very much in high demand today."

Another important theme that has carried through since the founding of the school is the clear projection of a need for more advance practice nurses and nursing faculty — and it's something the school has been working on over the past decade to respond to in a big way.

"There will always be a demand for more nurses," McBride says. "As the baby boomers get older, they will represent not only a larger demand for nursing services but also a large percentage of the nursing workforce that will be retiring."

In 2003, the school debuted its first graduate program, which focused on adult primary care nurse practitioners. Two years later, the school began offering a pediatric nurse practitioner program as well as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. The DNP, a practice doctorate, provides advanced practice nurses with additional skills in health care systems, finance, policy and application of best practices to empower them to meet public health care needs in multiple settings — at the bedside, in the community, at local clinics, in organizational leadership positions and so much more.

Currently in development is a research doctorate program that responds to the demand for more nurses in research and faculty positions. Having both a research and practice doctorate on the same campus creates a great opportunity for synergy, building a strong relationship between the nurses who generate new knowledge with those who will apply it in the community and practice settings

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