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School of Nursing Featured in the Daily News

School of Nursing Featured in the Daily News

*Original story from

Jen Gannott of Louisville went on a mission trip to Jamaica and saw what nurses can do.

She’s ready to help.

“I want to show them God’s love through nursing,” said Gannott, a senior in the Western Kentucky University School of Nursing.

Gannott has visited an elementary school to see what a school nurse does. Through her studies, she gets to see various types of nursing. “It gives you a little taste of everything a nurse can do,” she said.

Gannott, who plans to work on a medical-surgical floor in a hospital after graduation, is just one student among a greatly expanded WKU’s School of Nursing.

Director Mary Bennett said with the new facility leased from The Medical Center, the four-year bachelor’s program has doubled from 40 students a semester to 80. When the program was housed in the university’s Academic Complex, there wasn’t room for more students.

“We were roughly throwing away about half of a class each year,” Bennett said. “There were 100 qualified candidates, and we were only able to seat 40. We said, ‘How can we fix this?’ “

Constructing a financial model where The Medical Center built the building and WKU leased parts of it, the School of Nursing was able to spread out this year.

Bennett will travel to Indianapolis next month to present a paper before Sigma Theta Tau International, a nurses honorary society, to let other administrators know how to structure similar expansions. The push to educate nurses is fueled by a national nursing shortage.

Bennett said hospitals want nurses with four-year degrees. In a 2010 report, the Institute of Medicine called on states to bring the number of their nurses with bachelor’s degrees up to 80 percent from about 50 percent by 2020.

In Kentucky, the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees hovers around 25 percent to 30 percent, Bennett said, and an increase to 50 percent by 2020 might be an obtainable goal.

Bennett said the extra two years of instruction can make a difference. Research, public health, psychology, leadership and management are curriculums that add to each nurse’s capabilities. A survey of local hospitals across Kentucky shows the hospitals seek and retain nurses with four-year degrees. In fact, some of the programs in Kentucky offering associate’s degrees in nursing have actually started to cut back admissions based on their graduates not being able to find jobs, she said.

Bennett sits on the Kentucky Nursing Capacity Consortium, which is studying strategies to bring Kentucky’s nurses with four-year degrees up to 50 percent by 2020. One thing that is being studied is agreement on what courses a student can take as prerequisites before taking the nursing courses.

WKU has increased to 60 slots the number of students online taking the RN (registered nurse) to BSN (bachelor of science in nursing) upgrade. There also has been the introduction of a doctorate of nursing program. “We are going gangbusters at all levels,” Bennett said.

Exploration of nursing is a career change for Crystal Coleman of Park City, a first-semester junior at WKU. She was a retail manager for five years. “I like the people interaction. I’ve always been drawn to the medical field. You can grow with it, and things are always changing.”

Macey Cornwell and Brittany Gunter, both first-semester juniors from Scottsville, said nursing as a career came to them through different paths. Cornwell was majoring in business but saw the nursing profession up close when she spent a great deal of time at Vanderbilt University Medical Center when her mother was ill. “I want to work in the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt,” she said, adding that she’d also like to pursue a nurse anesthetist degree.

Gunter said she’s always had a passion for people and especially wants to work with children.

After Gunter obtains her degree from the WKU School of Nursing, she wants to go back and become a nurse practitioner, specializing in pediatrics.

“I enjoy the new facility,” Cornwell said. “We can work with computers at every bedside. The mannequins can do many procedures. We can set their vital signs. It helps. You’re not so nervous when you get in a real-life situation.”

— Chuck Mason covers education. Follow him on Twitter at or visit

SON Students

Western Kentucky University nursing students Andrea Reid (left) of Loretto and Kathryn Brown of Richmond practice CPR on a dummy at the WKU Medical Center Health Science Complex. Photo by Alex Slitz/Daily News

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