UCF school of nursing gains college status

  1. :icon_razz:
    Here is a front page story from today's Orlando Sentinel. Thought I'd pass it along for those who hadn't seen it yet:

    Nursing school at UCF to gain college status

    Victor Manuel Ramos
    Sentinel Staff Writer

    December 6, 2006

    The University of Central Florida's fast-growing nursing school will become a new college and could join the cluster of health-care and research facilities planned around the upcoming medical school, UCF officials said Tuesday.

    The designation, effective in July, will remove the School of Nursing from the College of Health and Public Affairs and give it more autonomy to pursue its mission of training much-needed nurses.

    As a college, the nursing program will have greater name recognition and the ability to manage its budget without sharing resources with a larger department.

    "Schools are embedded in colleges, which are bigger and more-encompassing units," said Terry Hickey, UCF's provost and executive vice president. "We hope they will generate more credit hours and grants as a college. It really puts their destiny in their own hands."

    The university will seek to raise $20 million to $25 million in gifts that, combined with state funding, could allow it to move the nursing college to Lake Nona, where UCF is building its health-sciences campus. In the meantime, the new college will continue to operate at UCF's main campus east of Orlando.

    The nursing school has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing its course and degree offerings and almost doubling its enrollment, said Director Jean Leuner, who will become the college's founding dean.

    It has nearly 550 undergraduates, 220 master's candidates and 36 doctoral students. Its programs also are offered in Brevard County and Daytona Beach as well as through distance learning.

    "With college status, we are in a better position to recruit faculty, to obtain funding, and we will be in a peer position with sister colleges in the state and the nation," Leuner said.

    The move marks the latest step in UCF's effort to expand its medical-education programs.

    Earlier this year, the Florida Board of Governors approved a medical school for UCF, slated to open in 2009. It is expected to become part of a biomedical hub south of Orlando International Airport that will include the Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences, a Veterans Affairs hospital and a research facility jointly operated by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the University of Florida.

    If things go according to plan, UCF will throw the nursing college into that mix.

    Tuesday's word was welcomed by the Central Florida nursing community, which recognizes the shortages in its ranks as a national challenge.

    "It's the autonomy that they need," said Nancy Rudner Lugo, a health-care consultant who taught at UCF's nursing school. "It's very hard to develop your profession under the direction of a different discipline, so the change itself for it to be a college will help to grow the program."

    Mary Lou Brunell, executive director of the Orlando-based Florida Center for Nursing, a state agency created by the state Legislature to help remedy the nursing shortage, said studies predict that the demand for nurses will increase as Florida grows.

    A 2005 study found almost 6,000 nursing vacancies in the state. About 1,200 of those were in Central Florida. The region will need 1,400 more nurses per year, at least until 2014, to keep up with demand, Brunell said. Statewide, the number of new nurses needed rises to about 7,400 per year.

    "In this situation, anytime that you are expanding a program, it's a good thing," said Willa Fuller, spokeswoman for the Florida Nurses Association in Orlando. "There is a huge shortage and also a lack of faculty to train the next generation of nurses."

    The new college will aim to attract funding for research, such as that of UCF by professor Karen Dennis. Her research on weight loss and exercise in postmenopausal women received $2.2 million from the National Institutes of Health.

    "We would be more prominent and visible as a college," Dennis said, "so that other people in the field even know that we are around."

    Victor Manuel Ramos can be reached at vramos@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-6186.
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