UNF's Flagship Will Be Nursing; the Plan Is to Build That Curriculum to the Point That It Will Bring Prestige to the University

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Byline: BETH KORMANIK

The University of North Florida has decided that nursing is its future.

UNF President John Delaney will announce today that the university has selected its community-based nursing curriculum as UNF's best hope to forge a national reputation through a concept called flagship programs, which Delaney introduced when he interviewed for his job in 2003.

The hope is that the four-year degree program eventually will bring prestige to UNF in the same manner as the University of Iowa's creative writing program or the University of Southern California's film school.

The community-based nursing program offers a curriculum that prepares students to care for patients beyond the traditional hospital setting and addresses health needs identified by the community.

"They [the nursing faculty] answered the question of how will we become great,"Delaney said. "It's a niche area in nursing that is fairly unique across the country."

The flagship designation will help refine the nursing program, its sponsors said. The winning proposal calls for hiring an additional faculty member, spending money on faculty development and marketing the program to the nursing community. Sponsors estimate that it will cost $374,600 over three years. After that, the aim is to become self-sufficient by attracting grants and other donations.

UNF will provide the seed money. University officials hope to designate at least two more flagship programs within the next year. So far, UNF has set aside $2.75 million for that purpose. Most of the proposals called for spending the money by hiring faculty and staff, recruiting students, awarding scholarships and developing marketing campaigns.

Community-based nursing fills a need created by the growing demand for nurses, according to UNF researchers. Insurance companies have stopped paying for longer hospital stays, so more patients require complex home care and rehabilitation. As medical treatment advances, more people will live with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and emphysema.

In UNF's program, established in 2002, students are taught to view their patients as members of a family rather than patients in a hospital.

Students still get experience in hospital settings, but they also participate in community health care and work with underserved or vulnerable community populations.

During their first semester, the nursing students assist with health screenings and visit nursing homes. Later in their instruction, they begin more active learning. For example, students who are studying women's and children's health might spend time in the pediatric emergency room or attending classes for women who breastfeed.

Delaney believes the nursing program can be a nationwide model. An accreditation team from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education complimented the program as unique and innovative.

Fifteen proposals were submitted for flagship consideration.

The proposals were judged by how they serve industry needs in Jacksonville, the level of interest for students, faculty and university donors and the program's chances of achieving elite status.

Proposals had to respond to a significant community issue and lay out plans for raising outside money to support them. The proposals also had to show how undergraduate students would be involved.

Delaney said in an interview he wants to add more flagship programs. The flagship programs were Delaney's main theme during his bid to become UNF's president. He proposed investing in a few academic programs to attain regional and national prominence. …