CSU dean guides big nursing school expansion
If Tara Hulsey has time to tend to her own health, itís hard to imagine when.
Since her arrival at Charleston Southern University in 2007 as dean and professor in the Derry Patterson Wingo School of Nursing, the programís enrollment has tripled and its faculty doubled.
Now, along with several recent state and national accolades, she is leading an expansion that will double the programís building space, improve technology and allow the school to hire new faculty and add programs.
So what is next for Hulsey, CSU and the ever-changing world of nursing? We asked her:
Q. You recently were inducted into the American Academy of Nursing, one of nursingís most prestigious honors. What was your reaction?
A. I was excited and humbled. I admire so many of my colleagues who are fellows, and I look forward to working with them to advance our profession and the state of health globally.
Q. What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
A. Thatís a very tough question because I donít think of the achievements in my career as ďmyĒ achievements. I have been fortunate to work with some amazing nurses in practice, in nursing education, in research and in leadership roles.
I suppose Iím most proud of working to improve perinatal health in our state and to help lead initiatives in nursing education, such as the development of graduate and doctoral-level programs, as well as a national initiative focused on quality and safety in nursing education.
Iím also especially pleased that I have had, and still have, the opportunity to work with the best of the best in our profession across the country to improve and advance health care, not just in the U.S. but globally.
Q. CSU is expanding its nursing and health science programs. What does that involve?
A. Our BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program has gone from accepting 30 students a year four years ago to 60 a year as of last fall. We have consistently had nearly 300 pre-nursing students enrolled with the hopes of being accepted into the program.
To respond to this need, we are doubling the size of our building to add more classrooms and hands-on skills and simulation learning opportunities. We also have hired new faculty with more positions set to open this fall.
Q. How many students are enrolled in CSUís nursing program?
A. We have nearly 300 prenursing students, 133 BSN students, about 15 R.N.-BSN students, 13 MSN students (14 graduated in December), and 40 students in the health promotion major. So, a total of about 500 students.
Q. How has that grown under your direction?
A. We now admit 60 a year with plans to add an additional admission and, ultimately, admit up to 120 a year. We have expanded the skills lab to a high-fidelity simulation lab. The building is under construction to double its size to accommodate more classrooms, offices and labs with plans to incorporate other health science programs. The health promotion program was very new and had less than 15 students enrolled. We now have 40 enrolled.
Q. Is there still a nursing shortage in the Charleston area?
A. Charleston is no different from other areas in the country. Projections of the national nursing shortage have not changed ó we still need nurses.
But the economic situation has caused employers to tighten budgets and decrease positions. This has a direct effect on nurse-to-patient ratios, which can lead to high burnout rates in nurses, increased errors and a risk to patient safety. This is a national concern.
Q. Do certain specialties or geographic areas have more demand for new graduates?
A. Nurses to serve rural communities and those in geriatrics to serve the aging population will be in high demand.
Q. What need does the R.N. to BSN program fill? When did this program begin at CSU?
A. To address the unique needs of this population, we have worked with Trident Tech to create a seamless program for associate degree nurses and moved the program online. Now, students can complete the program in three semesters of full-time work online.
Q. What percentage of CSU nursing graduates land full-time jobs within the first few months of graduation?
A. About 90 percent of our graduates remain in the state, and the majority stays in the tri-county area. Until 2011, 98 percent of our graduates were employed within six months of graduation. With the economic shift, it has taken longer for new grads to gain employment. However, our rate remains 100 percent within a year of graduation.
Q. Are nurses postponing retirement due to the economic slowdown?
A. Yes, and that has increased the time it takes grads to find employment. It also has forced new grads to be open to positions that might not be their first choices in a specialty area. This environment gives a false impression that the nursing shortage no longer exists. This is not the case.
Q. Tell us about your own nursing career.
A. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a registered nurse. I received my BSN from Clemson University, a masterís in maternal and child nursing from MUSC and a Ph.D. in nursing science from a joint program between the University of South Carolina and MUSC.
Then, I received a post-masterís certificate in Christian Leadership from the Baptist Missionary Associationís theological seminary.
My specialty area is high-risk obstetrics. Iíve conducted research in the areas of low birth weight and pre-term birth, maternal pregnancy behaviors and high-risk maternity issues.
My experience in nursing education includes holding the national certification of Certified Nurse Educator. I was in the first cohort to be certified and now am serving a second term as an elected commissioner for the exam. I also serve as a nursing accreditation site visit chair for the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.
Q. What brought you to CSU?
A. I was serving as the associate dean for academics at MUSCís College of Nursing, where I had been for nine years. I was at MUSC for 18 years total. I heard that my colleague, Dr. Marian Larisey, was retiring after 10 years at CSU, in which time she established a solid and respected BSN program.
I briefly considered applying. But then I thought I would wait and see if it was Godís plan for me. Two days later, a recruiter called to ask if I would consider the position. Iíve never looked back.
Itís been a pleasure and a joy to work in Christian higher education and with the outstanding, dedicated full and adjunct faculty on our team.
Q. You serve as chair of the United Nations and Global Health Advisory Council for Sigma Theta Tau International, the international honor society for nursing. What does that involve?
A. It will help nurse members globally better understand the work and aims of the U.N., including the Millennium Development Goals set to be achieved by 2015. These goals ó which include reducing child deaths, improving maternal health and combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other major diseases ó lay the foundation for improving world health.
Q. How has the nursing profession changed during your career?
A. Technology has changed dramatically, including telehealth, electronic charting and computer-assisted robotic surgery.
Weíve also seen a national shift from acute to chronic care of obesity, diabetes, mental health and cardiovascular illnesses, among others. Iíve also seen a decrease in in-patient stays and an increase in community, home-based care of acute patients.
The field also has expanded its professional education to include accelerated programs and doctoral programs in nursing.
Q. You serve on the State Board of Nursing. What does that involve?
A. I was appointed to the position by Gov. Nikki Haley and began last year. We oversee all nursing programs in the state as well as licensing aspects of all nurses in the state.
Q. What advice do you give new graduates heading into nursing careers?
A. Donít let the current job market discourage you. Be flexible in your schedule and specialty, network with other nurses and, if you are an associate degree graduate, donít stop there. Go for your BSN as soon as possible.
Remember that we are nurses to serve others. It is a wonderfully challenging yet rewarding profession. Every day, we have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of another.