The Voice: Spring 2002

The Voice

Health science/nursing major is in full swing; health services is coming

Rochelle Top travels to St. Luke's each day to take nursing classes and work in clinical rotations
By Sally Jongsma

Pam Hulstein has been pretty invisible on campus so far. But she doesn’t expect to stay that way. As director of Dordt’s new health sciences program and director of student health services, Hulstein has been on campus since September. She is currently advising and teaching the eleven students enrolled in the new health science major that is part of a joint program with St. Luke’s College of Nursing in Sioux City. Her work in health services is still in the preliminary stages. She’s been working on a concrete proposal for how to offer medical services to students. Eventually each part of the job should take about half of her time, she says.

Hulstein is pleased with the nursing program so far and says that students seem to be also.

“There are some major adjustments that need to be made as students go from primarily classroom courses at Dordt to clinicals at St. Luke’s,” she says. “The learning is much more hands-on and skill-oriented. Some jump right in—it’s what they’ve been eagerly waiting for. Others find it eye-opening and even stressful.”

Cindy Scholten, a second-year student from Lynden, Washington, says “I have learned a lot in the past semester and a half, more than I thought I would have in the first year.” She enjoys the programs and all of the hospital experience she’s getting. “I guess you could say it is more than I expected, and I am very happy with the colleges I am attending.”

Scholten is particularly happy that she can live at Dordt. “Dordt’s campus life has a lot more to offer than St. Luke’s,” she says, adding that a few details in the program have to be worked through yet, but things like transportation are starting to go more smoothly. “It will be a very good program,” she says.

The eleven second-year students in the program come from several states, including California, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa. Students travel together from Dordt to Sioux City, leaving some days before 6:00 a.m. and sometimes closer to 8:00. The van returns between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. depending on the day and the clinical schedules of students. On Monday evenings they all participate in a class on ethics in nursing taught by Hulstein. It is one of five nursing-related courses they take at Dordt over their four years.

The joint health science program offers students a B.A. in health science from Dordt and an A.D.N., a two-year nursing degree, from St. Luke’s. Students who complete the two years at St. Luke’s—the sophomore and junior years—are eligible to work as nurses as soon as they finish. But by attending the final senior year at Dordt they earn a college degree as well—something Hulstein strongly encourages. The four-year degree, which includes Dordt’s general education courses, is a stepping stone for further education should a student decide to go back to school later on. And some employers prefer to hire nurses with the educational breadth a bachelor’s degree gives, she says.

One thing Hulstein is particularly careful about as she advises is that students understand the program and what it gives them. Graduates do not earn a B.S.N. but an A.D.N. and a B.A. While this satisfies the needs of most students who wish to work in clinics or hospitals, it may not be the degree they wish to have if they plan to go into such areas as advanced nursing practice or nursing research.

The first graduates with a health science major will receive their diplomas in 2004. Unless things change dramatically, those graduates should find many positions available. The current nursing shortage promises to make it relatively easy for nurses to find a position for the foreseeable future, says Hulstein.

Under her other hat, Hulstein is laying the groundwork for a new student health services office that could open as early as next fall. Hulstein has been visiting other colleges of similar size to Dordt to assess health services programs and to help her outline what Dordt’s will look like. Issues of where to locate the office, what services will be included, and what start-up equipment is needed are all part of her proposal recently presented to the administration.

“The introduction of the health science major presented a good opportunity for Dordt also to begin a health services program because it brings a full-time nurse to campus,” says Hulstein. Having such an office on campus will be more convenient for students, allow expanded hours for care, and make it easier to provide students with important preventative health information, she believes. She hopes it also will help them get care for health problems much sooner.

Based on visits to and research from other schools, Hulstein expects to see between 200 and 400 students per month. She expects to treat students who are in general ill health, who have minor injuries or rashes, or who require screening and referral. As a certified midwife, Hulstein also dreams that someday women students may be able to have routine check-ups done on campus. And she expects to offer information on nutrition and lifestyle issues as well as offer first aid and CPR training.

“Students will be treated with professionalism and confidentiality,” Hulstein says. She sees the office as a starting point for getting medical services to students and expects to refer those who need it to local health providers.

Hulstein points out that the new program is not beginning because the old one was broken. For years Dordt has worked closely with the local medical clinic for student care. At present the college contracts with the Sioux Center Medical Clinic for general office calls that are available at no cost to the student if done during regular office hours. The arrangement has been a good one, made possible by the relatively close proximity of the clinic to campus. Having an office on campus, however, will be more convenient. Visits will be included in student fees, although referrals to other providers are at the student’s expense.

Hulstein is excited about her new position because it gives her a chance to promote nursing and because it offers a new challenge to set up a campus health service office. She has been nursing since 1984 and has since earned certification as a mid-wife from the Frontier School of Mid-wifery and a master’s degree in nursing from Case Western Reserve University.

Pam Hulstein is the new director of the health science program and coordinator of health services on campus.

Rochelle Top travels to St. Luke’s each day to take nursing classes and work in clinical rotations.