As featured in the Spring 2006 American Concierge Magazine

Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Nursing Provides Educational Excellence

State-of-the-art facilities, diversified experiences, and superior instructors equip students to lead in the field with skill and compassion.

The School of Nursing at Illinois Wesleyan University blends the liberal arts with its professional program, offering students a broad foundation of learning along with important career preparation. The School offers exceptionally skilled faculty, superb training opportunities and a distinctive Spanish minor that addresses the nursing care needs of the country’s growing Hispanic population.

IWU Associate Professor of Nursing Kathryn Scherck, left, shows student Kristian Lavinder how to check symptoms on the School of Nursing's SimMan.

Students benefit from the University’s liberal arts emphasis with courses that stress writing and group projects, allowing students to develop the communication and interpersonal abilities, critical thinking and decision-making skills the nursing profession requires. In addition, all senior nursing students take a business management course in the Division of Business and Economics. By offering a course that focuses on businesses beyond the health care industry, broader principles are taught that can be applied to many different areas.

“It’s important that students have the opportunity to learn about business from the perspective of someone outside of health care, so they get this broader view of the world,” says Donna Hartweg, director of the School of Nursing. She notes that interdisciplinary understanding and communication are hallmarks of the Institute of Medicine’s Health Professions Education Report of the Future.

An unusual advantage to the liberal arts environment at Illinois Wesleyan was demonstrated last year in an “Acting Across the Curriculum” course offered through the School of Theatre Arts, which sent acting students to classes across campus as a teaching tool. For nursing students, the actors staged examples of inappropriate bedside manner, providing a memorable lesson on professional development.

All of the full-time faculty in IWU’s School of Nursing have doctorate degrees. Hartweg notes this is especially significant because Illinois Wesleyan is an undergraduate-only institution, allowing close interaction of undergraduate students with doctorally prepared faculty, and differing from many schools, where comparably prepared faculty members often teach only in graduate programs.

“We pride ourselves on the close relationships that develop between our students and faculty,” says Hartweg. “With our small class sizes, faculty really get to know students well because they work so closely with them in the classroom and in clinical settings.

“These faculty could teach anywhere they want to teach, but they choose to teach at Illinois Wesleyan because of their commitment to undergraduate education.”

Unlike most universities, students have direct admission as freshmen to the School of Nursing. Once enrolled, no future application is necessary. The vast majority of nursing students complete their degrees in four years.

Graduates of the School of Nursing pursue a variety of exciting careers, often taking positions of leadership. Many Most go on to graduate study. Alumni include chief operating officers of major health care institutions and community health care clinics, nursing professors, researchers, school nurses, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and more. Typically, 100 percent of graduates of the School of Nursing are employed at the time they complete their degrees.

The curriculum at the School of Nursing reflects its philosophy toward patient care, following a framework called the theory of self-care. This theory sees health care as a collaborative process between nurse and patient and other caregivers, including family. Students in the nursing program at Illinois Wesleyan complete three years of clinical experience at a variety of sites in the region, including hospitals, home health agencies, child care centers and community health care agencies. In addition, opportunities for off-campus study include internships and travel courses.

Many nursing students choose to perform internships exploring topics and objectives that reflect their individual interests, ranging from specialty nursing care to language study. Internships can be arranged in a student’s hometown area or in non-clinical fields, such as one student’s recent work with lobbyists in Springfield, Ill., to support nursing-specific legislation understand the importance of political action to health care delivery.

Students have the option to take special travel courses during the University’s May Term to study Transcultural Nursing in Hawaii or liberal arts subjects throughout the world. Additional study-abroad opportunities promote enhanced language skills and cultural immersion in countries such as Mexico or Denmark.

A formal minor in Spanish at Illinois Wesleyan serves as a complement to the bachelor of science in nursing. The six-course minor includes work in language, literature, and culture through the University’s Department of Hispanic Studies, along with a medical Spanish course or an internship where linguistic and cultural skills are put to use in a professional context. The program addresses a critical need, as demographics show a steadily increasing Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, which the health care industry must be prepared to serve.

"This is a quality of care issue in which we must have nurses who are able to converse with patients in their native language to provide them the level of care that they need," Hartweg says.

Students in the program have found that speaking in a patient’s native language can increase their level of comfort, and understanding cultural issues can aid in providing proactive care.

"This is such an obvious win-win situation," Hartweg says. "Our students who pursue the Spanish minor have a real advantage in the job market. At the same time, the more nurses who are able to address this growing population, the better our health care system will be."

Facilities at the School of Nursing include the Nursing Interventions Laboratory, which enables students to practice and develop the types of skills they will use in interacting with patients in a variety of care settings.

One noted piece of equipment in the laboratory is SimMan, an anatomical model of the full human body designed to realistically simulate many types of medical management and crisis situations. SimMan is connected to a computer program that allows instructors to control his vital signs, alter his medical conditions, program specific scenarios and record their own sound bytes.

Like a real person, SimMan’s blood can be drawn and his blood pressure can be taken automatically, auscultated (through a stethoscope), or palpated (by touch). He also has a patent airway system, multiple inflatable bladders, the ability to clench his teeth, and a life-size intubation head with a flexible tongue, vocal chords and trachea.

IWU is fortunate to have the $50,000 simulated manikin manufactured by Laerdal, a Texas supplier of emergency medical products and training solutions. The late Deloris Helsley Ascher, a 1953 Illinois Wesleyan and Brokaw School of Nursing alumna, donated half of the cost for SimMan in 2003 with a challenge to fellow alumni.