The Daily Express

Owens Community College Health Technologies Division Celebrates the Past, Present and Future of Nursing, May 8

Everyone's experienced a trip to the doctor's office, whether for an unfamiliar illness, a headache or for a routine checkup. During that visit to the Northwest Ohio hospital or medical clinic, there is a good chance you were treated by one of the more than 3,500 nurses who have graduated from the Owens Community College Registered Nursing Program.

Established in 1969 as the first associate degree program of its kind in Northwest Ohio, the Owens Registered Nursing Program will celebrate its past, present and future within the healthcare industry as the College's Nursing Department combines three celebrations into one week: National Nurses Week, May 6-12; National Nurses Day, May 8; and 50 years of Associate Degree in Nursing (1952-2002).

The culmination of the week's national celebration will be a brief ceremony followed by an open house where former and current faculty and administrators from the Owens Registered Nursing Program will present information on the historical beginnings and evolution of the nursing field, Wednesday, May 8 from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. in the College's Bicentennial Hall Nursing Lab. The Owens Toledo-area Campus is on Oregon Road, located four miles south of Downtown Toledo.

"During the event, the Registered Nursing Department will be opening a time capsule which was placed into the cornerstone of Bicentennial Hall when the building was constructed in 1976," said Denise Spohler, Owens Associate Professor of Nursing. "Artifacts that will be placed into the new time capsule will include caring philosophy papers by Owens students, nursing instructional books and articles about nursing heroes who were a part of the relief efforts after September 11."

Also in attendance for the ceremony will be Dr. Peggy Bensman. In 1971, she was instrumental in establishing the Registered Nursing Program on the Toledo-area Campus. She served as Chair of the Department from 1971-1979, at which time she became Dean of the Health Technologies Division. In 1985, Bensman left that post to become the Owens Vice President of Academic Services until her retirement in 1991.

"Peggy's devotion to nursing education is without parallel," said Janell Lang, who is the current Owens Dean of the Health Technologies Division. "The philosophical base of nursing that she began over 30 years ago continues to be taught to Owens students today."

According to Lang, during the early 1970s Bensman was the primary grants writer in a proposal submitted to the then Department of Health, Education and Welfare for Nursing Capitation Funds.

"Due to her efforts, Owens Community College received federal funds used for the construction of Bicentennial Hall," Lang said of the building which houses the Registered Nursing Program.

The Registered Nursing Program began at the Owens Lima Branch Campus and was extended to the Toledo-area Campus in 1971 with the College graduating its first Registered Nursing class in June 1973. The program was implemented on the Findlay Campus in 1991. The Licensed Practical Nurse/Associate Degree Nursing (LPN/ADN) Progression Program, which is designed for individuals who need specified nursing courses and are Licensed Practical Nurses, was established on the Toledo-area Campus and the Findlay Campus in 1985 and 1987, respectively.

The current Registered Nursing Program, which has 88 Owens students graduating on May 16, is designed to prepare its students for nursing positions in a variety of healthcare settings. The program emphasizes Caring theory, and courses which focus on pathophysiology, pharmacology, adult health, pediatric health, mental health, community health, cultural diversity, geriatric health, maternal-child health, nursing science and nursing art. The instruction also incorporates guided experiences in client and health care facilities and community agencies.

Joyce Rhegness, an Owens Professor in Health Technologies, is one of four faculty members at the College who has witnessed the evolution of the nursing field both as a profession and at Owens.

Rhegness, along with Patricia Wilcox, Karen Booth and Mary Thibault, all of whom are Nursing Professors at the College, first began their teaching careers when Owens was a small college with only a couple of buildings and Bicentennial Hall was yet to be built.

"The Owens nursing staff was very happy when Bicentennial Hall was built because we then had a building to call our own," Rhegness said.

"What is so exciting about the evolution of nursing is that the profession is in constant change," she said. "Today, there are more opportunities for the nurse to work in various settings. The hospital is no longer the most important place for employment. Lifelong educational learning is a necessity in order to keep current with all the advances within the fields of nursing and medicine."

One of the innovative concepts Rhegness brought to the Owens nursing program was the introduction of the Caring Curriculum. "Mary Thibault and I were the individuals who brought the concept of Caring to the Nursing program. Owens is the only two-year college to implement this program."

Patterned after the four-year nursing program at Florida Atlantic University, the Caring theme teaches students the usage of personal, empirical, ethical and aesthetic patterns of knowing to promote health through nursing. The Caring theme also teaches prospective nurses about the five C's of caring, which included compassion, commitment, competence, confidence and conscience.

"These five C's help the nurse with decision-making, critical thinking skills, collaboration with other health team members and accountability for their own personal and professional growth," Rhegness said.

In addition to May 6-12 being National Nurses Week, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of establishing the first Associate Degree of Nursing in higher education.

"In 1952 Mildred Montag, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Columbia University, was appointed project director responsible for developing a new associate degree program in nursing," said Dawn Wetmore, Owens Chair of Nursing and Surgical Technologies. "The new degree program was implemented to reduce the critical shortage of nurses, move nurses into the overall system of American higher education and increase research on the efficacy of nursing education."

From Montag's studies it was determined that an associate degree program could prepare a Registered Nurse for a career within the profession, which is evident today by Associate Degree Nursing graduates accounting for 60 percent of all new registered nurses, and community colleges serving as the largest suppliers of nursing professionals in the United States." she said. "In 2000, community colleges graduated 42,665 students receiving an Associate Degree in Nursing."

According to Wetmore, the establishment of the Associate Degree in Nursing also has had a lasting impact on the Owens Nursing Department, which currently has 343 students enrolled in its Registered Nursing Program. "Owens Community College is ranked the 10th largest producer of Associate Degree Registered Nurses in the nation and produces the most associate degree graduates in the state of Ohio."

Owens Community College is the fastest-growing community college of its size in the nation. On the Toledo-area and Findlay campuses, Owens serves more than 36,000 credit and non-credit students. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and the lowest tuition in Northwest Ohio. Owens Community College offers over 100 career-oriented programs and majors in Agriculture, Business, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.

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