By Hannah Conklin
Bluffton University’s new nursing program beginning next fall isn’t the first of its kind. In fact, current nursing director Sherri Winegardner went through Bluffton’s RN-to-BSN program more than 20 years ago. When she graduated with her BSN in 1991, she was among the last to complete her degree before the program came to a halt.
“I’m not sure what the underlying issues were,” said Winegardner about the collapse of the original program.
She suspects the high cost of maintaining a quality nursing program could have been to blame.
Following her graduation from Bluffton, Winegardner spent a large portion of her career working as a hospital nurse and later as a nursing director in nearby hospitals. She always knew her goal was to enter the realm of nursing education. After completing her doctorate two years ago and discovering Bluffton was looking for a director to restart the nursing program, it seemed like a perfect fit.
The new program’s structure is more inclusive than the original, which relied on students to complete their RN elsewhere before enrolling. The new program will allow students to begin working toward their BSN right out of high school through a partnership with local Northwest State Community College in Archbold, Ohio.
Despite the challenges associated with restarting a program, Winegardner doesn’t seem worried about the future of nursing at Bluffton.
“We just need to continue to build upon our collaborative relationship with Northwest State,” she said.
Winegardner plans to use her contacts and experience from her nursing career to strengthen the program’s clinical affiliations with area hospitals and healthcare services.
First-year student Kelsey May has no hesitations about her decision to be one of the first to commit to the program.
“I was so happy they added nursing because I wanted to run track here,” she said.
May said she is excited to be part of a growing program that will allow her to obtain a nursing degree from a liberal arts university.
As to whether Bluffton’s second shot at nursing will last, May expressed great hope.
“I know people in general are really interested in nursing,” she said. “It’s a good field to go into.”