Penn State School of Nursing Restructures, Becomes Stand-Alone Academic Unit

Fueled by tremendous enrollment growth and expansion of its research and outreach efforts, the Penn State School of Nursing has become an independent academic unit effective July 1, 2008. The Penn State Board of Trustees voted on May 16 to approve the new structure.

Dr. Paula Milone-Nuzzo, who served as director of the School under the previous structure, is now dean of the School. She reports directly to the Executive Vice President and Provost of the University. Dr. Rae Brown is now associate dean for undergraduate programs and outreach. The School has launched a national search for an associate dean for research and graduate programs.

“One of the important things this does is give the School of Nursing more visibility within the University,” Milone-Nuzzo says. “As a result, we will be in a better position to expand our contribution to the University's growing health services mission.” The new administrative structure also elevates the status of the Penn State nursing program among its peers, Milone-Nuzzo says. “Most nursing schools at other colleges and universities are already stand-alone units headed by deans.”

The School of Nursing has become one of the elite nursing programs in Pennsylvania and the nation - not only in terms of the number of nurses that it has prepared for licensure, but in the growing number of advanced practice nurses and nurse scientists that it has prepared as well. In the last four years, total enrollments have increased 22 percent in the baccalaureate program and 34 percent in the graduate programs. More than 1,400 students are enrolled in Penn State nursing programs at ten campus locations. More than 150 additional students are completing the RN-to-BSN program through the World Campus, and many others take courses offered through the program.

The School’s increased status and visibility should have a profound impact on recruitment, especially in terms of attracting graduate students and faculty. “Applicants to graduate nursing programs are interested in specialty programs, and our new structure will allow us to expand the number and scope of specialty tracks available,” Milone-Nuzzo says. “But perhaps the biggest impact will be in terms of faculty recruitment and the opportunities for further growth in our research program.”

While the School is now a stand-alone academic unit at Penn State, it will continue to maintain a strong relationship with its original academic home, the College of Health and Human Development. "The School will continue to use the resources of the College of Health and Human Development in the areas of development, alumni affairs, public relations, research and grant support, facilities support, and information technology support," Milone-Nuzzo says. Dr. Milone-Nuzzo will continue to serve on the College of Health and Human Development’s Executive Committee, the collective leadership unit of the College.

“Both the School of Nursing and the College of Health and Human Development aim to improve the health of individuals and families and the communities in which they live,” says Dr. Nan Crouter, dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “Our shared mission, and the exciting opportunities for collaboration that accompany it, make our continued close relationship of great importance and significance.”

The School also will maintain its strong ties with the College of Medicine and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. More than half of all junior and senior baccalaureate nursing students receive a majority of their clinical experiences at the Hershey Medical Center, resulting in a large number of students being hired there after graduation.

According to Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Rodney A. Erickson, the administrative change will be beneficial to the University as it continues to increase its emphasis on the health sciences.

"Nursing education will play an integral role in the transformation of health care in this country and in the evolution of health sciences at the University," he said in May when announcing the change. "Nursing research and practice are pivotal in shaping a healthcare delivery system responsive to the needs of our population. The School will have the status and visibility to contribute significantly to advancing the health science mission of Penn State and to compete most effectively with peer programs within the Commonwealth and across the nation."

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at (814) 865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.