Nursing is back in a big way at Niagara University.
After shutting down its College of Nursing in 2002 because of a drop in market demand for nurses, the Catholic institution recently announced that it has received approval from the state Department of Education to offer two new nursing programs: a four-year Bachelor of Science in nursing and an accelerated bachelor's degree in nursing.
"I couldn't be more delighted," said Fran Crosby, chairwoman of Niagara University's nursing department and a driving force in bringing the program back to the school. "It's absolutely the right thing for Niagara. The mission for Niagara perfectly fits with all the things that nurses do."
Crosby, a 1967 graduate of Niagara, became a faculty member about the time the program was closing.
"It just about broke everyone's heart," she said. "So when the opportunity presented itself to look at whether we could possibly reopen the program, I was delighted to be part of it."
Many of the school's alumni participated in the effort to bring back the nursing program, including 1959 graduate Barbara Malinowski, co-chairwoman of the Nursing Alumni Council, who said the University had a very well-respected nursing program.
"I got involved when it was announced that the program was closing," she said. "I was very disappointed -- angry, like everyone else -- and called the university to see what I could do to help. I have been involved ever since. We've had a tremendous response from our alumni and from a number of people who are delighted we are back in the nursing business."
Nursing at Niagara dates from the establishment of the College of Nursing in 1946. The college graduated more than 3,500 professional nurses before closing in 2002 due to a steep decline in market demand for nurses.
Graduates of the College of Nursing have maintained close ties to the university, forming an alumni council and assisting with the implementation of the degree completion program, which was accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in 2008.
Since 2006, Niagara has offered a nursing degree completion program for students who are already registered nurses. The new bachelor's programs have been designed to build on the resources already in place and in response to the critical shortage of nursing professionals that is projected to continue well into the future, school officials said.
Elma resident Tom Collins, a student in the existing RN to BSN program, said he thinks the expansion of the nursing program is great. "It's absolutely a good thing. I think there is prestige that comes with having a degree from Niagara University. It's something to be proud of.
"We are thrilled to expand the diversity of programs that we are able to offer to those special people who are interested in pursuing nursing careers," said the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, president of the university. "Niagara possesses an extensive history of excellence in educating nurses, and nursing is a program that aligns directly with our mission of serving those most in need."
When asked about the turnaround in the demand for nurses, Nancy McGlen, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences that houses the nursing department, said that there were several reasons.
"I think there are a number of things," she said. "There is going to be a huge demand for nurses, due in part to the aging population, the graying of the nursing population and the impending retirement of current nurses. The bachelor's degree has become more desirable, in part because there's been a fair amount of research that the four-year degree gets a better outcome."
Also, she said, health care treatment is increasingly being done with the nurse practitioner degree. "You don't get to the nurse practitioner degree without the four-year degree in hand," she said.
The new four-year program will provide a major in nursing to students entering Niagara's freshmen class or transfer students without any specialized nursing background.
The accelerated program admits those already holding a bachelor's degree or higher and enrolls them in nursing courses on a concentrated, full-time track. The accelerated program may be completed within a 12-month time frame.
The programs will be offered through the nursing department, part of Niagara's College of Arts and Sciences. The four-year track will commence in fall 2012, while the accelerated program will begin in May.