Deep Dive in 5: The SJSU Nursing Program

by | May 8, 2024 | Academics, Community Engagement, Featured

Students in the Hilltop Manor program assist their client, a resident of the senior living facility, as part of the Nurse Managed Centers initiative through the SJSU nursing program. Photo by Robert C. Bain.

San José State’s Valley Foundation School of Nursing has been helping its community for decades, shepherding countless Spartans through nursing degrees and connecting them with hands-on experiences and many chances to bring their knowledge and expertise out into the wider world. 

The school’s mission is simple and noble: “Provide educational excellence in the science and art of professional nursing to empower our graduates to be responsible and knowledgeable clinicians, leaders and scholars who strive to meet changing global healthcare needs.”

We spoke with Audrey Shillington, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, and Lisa Rauch, director of the School of Nursing, to learn more about what makes the SJSU nursing program unique as we recognize National Nurses Week from May 6-12. 

How does the SJSU nursing program engage students interested in nursing, building pathways from high school to community college and beyond?

We start our outreach activities by going to local high schools and junior high schools to present nursing in healthcare settings. We have interacted over the last academic year with approximately 160-200 high school students, and we often visit community colleges at educational fairs to present pathways for moving from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree. 

We have a partnership with Evergreen Community College (ECC) which combines nursing students attending the ECC RN program with students at SJSU in the baccalaureate program. This allows students entering nursing at the community college level to complete their RN and bachelor’s degree in the same amount of time as traditional nursing students — 5 semesters. Students begin at community college and take online courses from SJSU, finishing with a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree in the same amount of time as transfer students into the BSN program. ECC nursing students are integrated with the existing Advanced Practice students to ensure a smooth and timely transition to a bachelor’s degree.

This is a Concurrent Enrollment (CEP) Program, which means the students are actually admitted to both Evergreen Community College and SJSU. They take classes from both programs each semester for the first four semesters and then finish the fifth semester taking the remainder of their coursework at SJSU.

Furthermore, the College of Health and Human Sciences has recently received extramural funding from the Department of Health Care Access and Information (HCAI) for nearly $3.4 million for our Broaden and Build Program. The Broaden and Build Program will expand the healthcare workforce, including addressing the shortage of nurses. Over the next five years, the program will train and place over 500 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) at no cost to the student, and establish bridges to advanced credentials in nursing and other health fields.

What makes the SJSU nursing program unique, particularly with its location in Silicon Valley?

San José State University is the first California State University (CSU) institution, and also established the first CSU-based baccalaureate nursing program in 1959. We are committed to our local hospital partners and have long-standing relationships with them. In fact, we are very proud to note that many nurses who have graduated from our seven nursing programs currently work in leadership roles in the local community. Many of our faculty are also alumni of our nursing programs. Our diverse faculty are representative of our diverse student population, as well as the community at large.  

Can you describe some of the community partnerships within the SJSU nursing program?

Our school is distinctive in Santa Clara County for our dynamic community health clinical programs, including our Nurse Managed Centers (like the Hilltop Manor program), which provide community-based nursing services to underserved, at-risk populations, and our partnership with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Through both of these initiatives, symptom management, health education and early intervention are provided to hundreds of community clients weekly during the academic year.

Our partnerships within the hospital systems are also robust. A few examples include our Dedicated Education Unit at San José Regional Medical Center, which provides students with a one-on-one clinical practicum in advanced medical surgical units, and our collaboration with the Veterans Administration for their nursing residency program. We also partner with low-income schools to provide health education and screenings. Our students also get involved with community activities such as the Mass Casualty Incident, where students are volunteers in a simulated mass casualty event with the county hospital.

How are we preparing students to take what they’ve learned from the classroom to the hospitals and clinics?

Nursing education is necessarily practice-based. Throughout the years of instruction and training, SJSU nursing students are continuously receiving skills practice in a variety of environments. For example, our various simulation labs provide a safe learning environment where students learn collaboratively and apply their nursing theory into practice, and the health assessment and nursing skill labs provide opportunities for students to practice hands-on nursing interventions multiple times with faculty guidance. In the classroom setting, students are taught the theoretical foundations for each area of nursing and also utilize virtual simulations to solidify their knowledge. 

In addition, students take several leadership courses that build their soft skills, such as communication across cultures, managing and delegating to people, understanding the role of the professional nurse and the legal aspects of providing care. They learn how to make an impact in health policy, self-care and palliative and end-of-life care and communications.  

Most importantly, they learn how to work with diverse individuals in a fast-paced, ever-changing healthcare system. Our students have approximately 785 hours of direct care practice at the completion of their program, as well as additional virtual and in-person simulation experiences. 

What kind of interdisciplinary opportunities are available to nursing students?

A top priority for the College of Health and Human Sciences is interdisciplinary and interprofessional education. Faculty in the nursing school have been instrumental stewards of this strategic pillar. Interprofessional education occurs when students from two or more professions learn about, from and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes. Once students understand how to work interprofessionally, they are ready to enter the workplace as a member of a collaborative practice team.

This is crucial for nursing students as they will be working with a variety of other professions. Across health care settings, care coordination and delivery is integrated and interdisciplinary. Interprofessional care has been shown to improve patient outcomes. 

In our school, collaborations among nursing, occupational therapy, and social work have led to a number of interprofessional learning opportunities. This includes patient simulations and family or community simulations in an equipped apartment.

CHHS also just hosted its first Interprofessional Practice Symposium where nursing students and faculty spent the day working with interdisciplinary teams. The departments of communicative disorders and sciences, occupational therapy, recreational therapy, audiology, nursing, kinesiology, public health, child and adolescent development, and psychology all came together to learn about other disciplines, apply their disciplines’ theory and framework to different populations and conditions, and engage with testing equipment used in biofeedback, hearing screenings, and vestibular evaluation.

Keep up with the Valley Foundation School of Nursing’s programs and opportunities