Educating Health Care Students Throughout the Bay Area

Appeared in: Oakland Business Review

By: Elizabeth Valente

OAKLAND's Samuel Merritt College
(SMC) is nationally recognized as
a premier health sciences institution
that educates students to become highly
skilled and compassionate health care
professionals who positively transform
the experience of care in diverse

Samuel Merritt College also applies the
same rigor in nursing theory courses and
clinical education at its Sacramento, San
Francisco and San Mateo sites. At each
remote site, we learn how unique the
geographical sites are from each other.

Sacramento Regional Learning Center

Sacramento Regional Learning Center
(SRLC) was the first remote site to open
nursing courses outside Samuel Merritt
College's main campus on "Pill Hill" in

Just like the first SMC graduating class
back in 1912, SRLC began the remote
campus with only 18 students in the
Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing
– Case Management Curriculum (ELMS)
program. Six years later, SRLC has more
than doubled the ELMS program in size
and has added the Accelerated Bachelor
of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program.
This two-year-old program allows
graduates to receive a nursing degree
in just 12 months. The highly intensive
nursing program in Sacramento was
the model for the San Francisco and
San Mateo centers.

"When I opened Sacramento in July
2001, I could not have known what a
challenge – and reward – that campus
would become. I am confident that the
faculty and staff in San Francisco and
San Mateo feel the same way," said
Audrey Berman, PhD, RN, AOCN,
dean of School of Nursing.

What has made SRLC so popular is
how the campus creates its own system
of teaching the same material, but
different methods to accommodate the
suburban surroundings of the Greater
Sacramento Area.

"At times we can't function like the
main campus in Oakland, so we have
to be a little more creative, for instance,
with financial aid, we bring a financial
aid representative to us, versus having
our students drive to the East Bay to go
to the financial aid office," said Rene
Clymer-Engelhart, RN, MSN, managing
director and assistant professor.

Finding the right student is also key to
the SRLC success. With the demand for
nurses so high, some students are not
counting on the lottery placement system,
as found in other colleges. Instead, they
are relocating from the Bay Area, Lodi
and Stockton, and up from the winding
mountains of Tahoe, just to grab an
opportunity to be in a nursing program
at SMC.

San Francisco Learning Center (SFLC)

When you think of San Francisco, images
of the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars,
steep hills and the scenic bay come to
mind. But what the ads don't show is
the other side of San Francisco – the
homeless, low-income families and at
times, gang violence.

It is that diverse environment that
allows more than eight dozen SMC
students in the 12-month Accelerated
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN)
program to better prepare themselves for a transition into the role of a
professional nurse.

Located on the St. Luke's campus,
San Francisco Learning Center (SFLC) is
headquartered in the heart of the city's
Mission District, an area that serves primarily
low-income, non-insured patients.

"Here in San Francisco we live in a
culturally diverse universe," said Zenobia
Collins-Johnson, assistant professor and
managing director of San Francisco
Learning Center. "We must prepare our
students to work with an Arab woman
wearing a Jihab, the Chinese woman
who only speaks Cantonese or the person
who is giving birth for the fifth time and
happens to be Mormon. Having these
experiences and being in this environment
gives our students a unique perspective as
to what it's like to be a nurse."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau,
there are more than 74,000 people living
in and around the SFLC zip code,
94110. Patients in the Mission District
are ethnically and racially diverse – 20
percent are African American, 20 percent
are Asian/Pacific Islander, 25 percent are
Caucasian, and 30 percent are Hispanic.

Establishing the ABSN program in the
area has been a win-win situation for
both the students and nearby facilities,
thanks in part to the clinical availability.
The clinical rotations allow the students
to take course work, like Managing Care
of Adults 1, 2, & 3, pediatrics, maternity,
mental and community health, out of the
classroom and into real life practices.

"We encourage the students to endear
themselves to members of the faculty
during their last course synthesis. At this
five-week arrangement the students are
'buddied' with a nurse on a unit at a
hospital of their choice," said Collins-
Johnson. "This is their first 'real nurse'
experience away from the school
environment. Developing these kinds
of relationships and having a diverse
experience gives them many more choices
where they may want to work after

It takes fulltime faculty like Collins-
Johnson, Debbie McBride, Collin
Bowman-Woodall and Randy Roark to
promote academic excellence in a diverse
patient population by utilizing the site's
wide range of cutting edge technology,
such as working on simulation adults and
using Tandberg, video-conferencing, to
assist in their everyday teaching

San Mateo Learning Center (SMLC)

Opening a new Samuel Merritt College
campus is a monumental event, and the San Mateo Learning Center (SMLC)
grand opening event is one the city of
San Mateo is still talking about.

The learning center located on South
Amphlett Boulevard in San Mateo is the
newest site that provides vital educational
opportunities to healthcare students living
in and around the Bay Area.

"As I walked through the building I
couldn't help but be inspired by and
appreciative of the amount of hard work
and dedication it took to bring the center
to pass," said president and chief executive
officer Sharon Diaz. "From the
first thoughts of developing an ABSN
program, to the launch of our fifth
educational setting – yes five: Oakland,
San Francisco at Saint Luke's, San
Francisco at Saint Mary's, Sacramento,
and now San Mateo, members of our
community have worked long and hard."

Honoree guest San Mateo Mayor
Carole Groom and several of her city
staff members were also in attendance.
Mayor Groom spoke about the excitement
the city has about partnering with
SMC, and acknowledged the San Mateo
Learning Center as a model site for
providing higher education to healthcare

Diana Dunn, MSN, RN, professional
nursing education consultant academic
relations at Kaiser Permanente Northern
California Patient Care Services, spoke about the commitment and partnership
we as a community need to have to
provide an effective program in response
to the critical shortage of nurses. The
campus was made possible by grants
from the East Bay Community
Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and the
Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative.

The 12,000-square-foot facility first
opened its doors on Oct. 2, 2007 to
more than three dozen ABSN students.
The 12-month program is designed for
someone who already has a baccalaureate
in a non-nursing field. The new learning
center has two spacious classrooms, a
12-patient bed skills lab complete with
simulation adults and baby, ten private
faculty offices, a computer lab/library, a
conference room and break/lounge room.

Samuel Merritt College is affiliated
with Alta Bates Summit Medical Center
and Sutter Health. SMC, founded in
1909, has been educating health
professionals for nearly 100 years. The
college offers an undergraduate degree
in nursing; master's degrees in nursing,
occupational therapy, and physician
assistant; and doctoral degrees in
physical therapy and podiatric medicine.


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