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MSU College of Nursing graduates first upper division class from Bozeman campus.

May is an exciting time of year in Bozeman. The days are getting longer, the weather a bit warmer, and many young folks are about to launch into their first professional jobs in their chosen careers, including becoming registered nurses.

As an adjunct assistant professor at the MSU College of Nursing, it is an honor to play a small part in the education of the future leaders of the nursing profession. One of the classes I teach is a lab (practice) section of "Health Assessment across the Lifespan." The final experience has the students perform a physical exam on someone who has not taken the class. We often meet boyfriends, girlfriends, and family members of our students at this time as they help students achieve their goals. Last year one young woman brought her father, who had been the "patient" for her mother when she went through our program years ago. It was a pleasure to see the love of nursing pass through the generations and reminisce with her dad about his wife's and his college years at MSU.

About four years ago I had the pleasure of having Kayla McAvoy in the clinical portion of the "Fundamentals of Nursing" class, where students meet their very first client as a nursing student in the local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Kayla has since graduated, worked for Bozeman Deaconess Hospital in their Medical-Surgical department for 2 years, and is now my husband's nurse at Dr. Shaneyfelt's office.

Many years ago when I took the class Kayla was in, it was the last semester Milly Gutkowski was teaching at the College of Nursing, and Milly was my instructor. Since graduating I have worked with Milly on behalf of the Montana Nurses' Association to protect and advance the interests of nurses in Montana and consider her a friend. This fall I will be the lecturer/instructor for that course.

Reflecting on generations of student nurses moving from the student role to that of colleague and even our care providers, the MSU College of Nursing has been part of this annual procession since 1937 when Anna Pearl Sherrick affiliated the hospital-based training programs of Great Falls, Havre, and Bozeman with Montana State College. The 1937 program began that fall with 194 students entering the program. Over the years upper division campuses have changed. (Butte was an upper division site on two different occasions in our history.) In the fall of 2005, we had 827 nursing students in our program. There are currently five upper division campuses with 40 students graduating from Billings, 16 from Bozeman, 15 from Great Falls, and 22 from Missoula plus the 99 students who graduated in Fall 2005, including 6 from Kalispell. We usually graduate about 184 nurses a year. These students will graduate with their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree or "BSN," which makes them eligible to take the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse. They graduate at a time of a great nursing shortage in our state and country and tremendous opportunities. As the only program offering graduate nursing education in the state, 11 new master's prepared nurses (8 family nurse practitioners (FNP), 2 clinical nurse specialists, and one post-master's FNP certificate) will also graduate from the MSU College of Nursing.

The latest Summary of the 2004 Graduate survey shows that graduates of our program top the entry-level salary of graduates of MSU for the first time ever at $42,023 (even beating engineering at $41,975). All Montanans benefit from our program when 71 percent of our graduates take jobs in Montana. Others may be like me, who go out of state for a number of years and return to where their hearts and families are after gaining valuable experience, education, and opportunities out of state.

While the College of Nursing originated and continues to be administrated from Bozeman, we have never had an upper division campus at this location until two years ago. A "site analysis" had to demonstrate adequate clinical facilities to provide the variety of educational experiences our students are expected to master. Many financial hurdles were overcome to provide for additional educators for these students. The growth and assistance of our medical community and hard work of our administrators has enabled this long-held dream to become a reality. This month marks the first graduating class from a Bozeman upper division campus. These graduates include:

Jon Balgeman, a graduate of Manhattan High School, was inspired to become a nurse after providing community health education in New Guinea. He is off to a specialized training program at Mayo in Rochester, MN, along with fellow graduate Sarah Atwood. Ian McInroy worked at a group home in Dillon and as a fly-fishing guide in Ennis before becoming a nurse. He will be taking critical care classes in Billings before starting work in the intensive care unit at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Kahrin Phillips having worked at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital throughout her nursing classes is expecting her first child this summer with hopes of starting work in the operating room at Bozeman Deaconess after her maternity break. Libby Archibald is off to become a nun and provide health care for underserved populations around the world. Brandom Jones will be getting married this summer before pursuing her dream job. Jessica Barnes is expecting a baby in July. She plans to stay in Bozeman and will be applying to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital after her maternity break. Jessyca Small is not sure where her path will lead her yet, but she is proud to be following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, who is the first registered Native American nurse, Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail. Tracy Edwards and Rachel Schweitzer are heading to Portland: Tracy to work in pediatrics before applying to grad school to be a pediatric nurse practitioner and Rachel to work in acute adult care and trauma.

We are very proud of these and all the College of Nursing students as well as their hard work and accomplishments. Please join us in welcoming them into the nursing profession and wish them well. May you see them socially and not need their services professionally!

Rachel Rockafellow, MSN, RN, CWOCN
COPYRIGHT 2006 Montana Nurses Association
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Education Under the Big Sky
Author:Rockafellow, Rachel
Publication:The Pulse
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Words:1031
Previous Article:Barb Swehla joins MNA staff.
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