Educating Health Care Students Throughout the Bay Area

From: Elizabeth Valente, Oakland Business Review

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 communities.

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 (SRLC)

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 Oakland.

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 graduation."

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 methodology.

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 professionals.

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.

This article was originally posted in the Oakland Business Review. View the original article
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