the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956
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Nurses raise the lamp of learning

By President Shirley H. Showalter

When someone is dying, how do you pray? Recently, a friend described his friend’s response to that question on behalf of his wife: “Pray that every night she will have a great nurse.”

The call to nursing has led more than 1,500 Goshen College graduates to care for the sick or injured in this country and around the world. It has also guided them into other fields such as home health care, retirement communities, insurance, administration and education. Into these arenas nursing graduates have carried our motto of “Culture for Service.” They know in a deeply felt way what it means to be servant leaders for the church and the world. At least four of our Culture for Service Award recipients – Dorothy McFarland, Florence Nafziger, Adele Brunk Kanagy and Theo Yoder – have been nurses.

The field of nursing has changed since our baccalaureate program –the first in the state of Indiana – began in 1949, when Goshen College leaders had the vision to move beyond diploma programs for nurses to offer a bachelor of science in nursing degree. After World War II, when Civilian Public Service and reconstruction in Europe brought Mennonites into direct experience with healthcare of all kinds, Goshen College found it natural to bring the liberal arts and professional training in nursing together – a program with a strong fit with our service-oriented campus. Our emphasis has been on quality education and Christian service with a world-wide focus. Today’s nurses no longer wear starched caps, and the graduating classes include both men and women. What has not changed is that all students receive a thorough grounding in the arts and sciences and exposure to the needs of the world through international education and service-learning.

This issue of The Bulletin tells some of the wonderful stories of nursing faculty and alumni over the years. It also offers us the opportunity to highlight the excellence of the current program. The last 10 years have produced challenges for nursing education nationally, and demands in the healthcare system. Happily, our program has weathered these challenges and emerged today well positioned to thrive in the years ahead. Enrollment in the nursing program is strong this year in each class of students, and the pass rate of our graduates taking the NCLEX was 94 percent compared with the national average of 81.7 percent (and in 2001 the department achieved the highest possible score of 100 percent)! Clearly, the faculty and the curriculum are excellent.

My education was in the humanities rather than the sciences, so in the seven years since becoming president I have made a conscious effort to learn more about our professional programs rooted in the liberal arts. My learning has included participating in the beginning and end of the most recent accreditation visit of the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The accreditors’ praise was not perfunctory; it came from both mind and heart. They saw our distinctive strengths and, as the students say, they “got it.”

Here is just one excerpt from their glowing report: “Students and alumni shared stories of how their SST experience was life-changing. . . . Employers indicated that this is a strength of the program. The students often can communicate in another language, an invaluable skill in this day and age. …Employers also indicated they prefer hiring the Goshen College graduates because they are above average communicators, have a strong sense of values and culture and are good critical thinkers … more self-confident than other new graduates.”

Like most people, I have been a patient as well as a visitor in the local hospital. In every case I have enjoyed the humor, competence and Christian care of graduates of this college. If it happens that my last days are spent in a hospital, I will recall my friend’s wish for a great nurse every night. If my nurse is a graduate of Goshen College, my prayer will be answered. Think what would happen if thousands more people could experience such excellent care? We know that many million do not. Poet William Stafford reminded his readers that “the darkness around us is deep.” I can think of no better prayer for out darkly ill world – full of hunger, strife, violence, and fear –than that Goshen College nurses will always be ready to take the lamp of learning and the healing light of Christ into the night.
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