One of the nation’s foremost organizations for promoting nursing education, the National League for Nursing (NLN), has designated the Duquesne University School of Nursing a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education, making it one of only three nursing schools in Pennsylvania with the title.
The School earned the designation, according to the NLN’s formal citation, for “creating environments that promote student learning and professional development.”
“At the School of Nursing we do not distinguish between student learning and professional development,” said Nursing Dean Eileen Zungolo. “We tie the two together so that our commitment to student learning is evidenced by our commitment to faculty development and vice versa. “
In the citation, the NLN lauds the School of Nursing’s innovative undergraduate curriculum design. Duquesne’s was the first nursing school in the nation to develop a curriculum based on the framework of the “synergy model,” a conceptual approach to nursing practice developed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. The synergy model holds that nurses must not only deliver care to their patients, but to be effective, nurses must serve and support their colleagues and the health care system itself.
The citation also calls the School of Nursing a pioneer of distance education. In 1997 the school launched the nation’s first fully online Ph.D. in nursing program, which, according to Zungolo, is an exemplar of the way the nursing school unifies a commitment to innovation as well as quality.
“At that time, both the technology and the concept of distance education were crude, to say the least, and institutionally there was not the kind of support that we have in place now for online learning,” said Zungolo of the Ph.D. program launch. “When the faculty made the decision to move to a completely online Ph.D. program, it really was a pioneering step.”
The NLN citation praises the Nursing School’s efforts to document how online graduate students are able to form a cohesive educational community, one in which academic rigor in no way is diminished by geographic diversity, age differences or variations in learning styles.
Today, all of its graduate programs are delivered exclusively online, and this semester the school began offering a second online doctoral track, a D.N.P. (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program, an advanced practice degree as distinguished from the Ph.D. program with its research focus.
The NLN developed the Center of Excellence in Nursing Education designation five years ago in order to showcase model programs, enhance the quality of nursing education and underscore the value of a career as a nurse educator, in the long run, Zungolo explained, ultimately to improve the quality of the nursing profession.
The School of Nursing is entitled to call itself an NLN Center of Excellence in Nursing Education for a three-year term, at the end of which time it can reapply for the designation.