First group of nursing students to graduate from Iowa State


Courtesy of Debbie Lively

Nursing students went to Thailand and Cambodia and set up pediatric and neonatal resuscitation clinics and worked with children who have never had a physical assessment before.

Julia Benda

The first group of students to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Iowa State University are graduating this December.

The Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program at Iowa State has been active since the first students were admitted in the fall of 2018. The program is offered to registered nurses who want to complete a bachelor’s degree and is designed for working nurses. Those in the program have class one day each week.

Virginia Wangerin, clinical assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, is the director of nursing. Wangerin said the students in the nursing program are diverse and therefore have a variation of career goals after graduation.

“We have students who are intending to go right on into graduate programs as nurse practitioners,” Wangerin said. “We have students who are actually changing their career goals because of their experiences and they are still exploring their options.”

Wangerin said the students in the program have recognized their view of nursing and potential careers have changed throughout the program.

“[Their views] are much broader […],” Wangerin said. “I think I can safely say that no one feels like they are just going to be doing the same thing they were doing before they came in or at least not doing it the same way.”

Dawn Bowker, clinical assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, said the opportunities of the program are not only in the rigor of the program but also with aspects like presenting research posters.

“It is a focus on population health and wellness,” Bowker said. “We have two full semesters on that and when we talk about population health we begin with the population of being a nurse themselves and the importance of self care and then look at different aggregates and how they can enhance their current nursing practice looking through the lens of global health and through vulnerable populations.”

Wangerin said nursing in the future is moving toward community health, and the program at Iowa State is well ahead of the game in that sense.

“There are opportunities at ISU that would set us apart,” Bowker said. “One is having the opportunity to be on the Iowa State campus and being part of the Iowa State community. A strong point for our program is that they work very closely with the professors in the program and have availability to that as well as working with a cohort that they would go with through their program. So there is a lot of support that will enable them to succeed in this program.”

A large amount of Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing programs are offered online. Iowa State offers the program courses right on campus. Wangerin said she believes the ability to meet in person allows for students to get a more caring, human and nurturing experience, which allows students to go to a higher level.

Bowker said Iowa State’s Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program offers local, domestic and international opportunities for nursing students that are relevant to their clinical practice. These opportunities can be related to interests the students have and are very individualized and allows students to explore.

“I truly believe that in a program that has that face to face, that interaction, that going out into clinical settings together, debriefing together, relationship building, you cannot replicate that online,” Wangerin said. “[…] We are not just meeting the expectations of a baccalaureate degree, we are exceeding it but in ways that we just can’t do any other way. I think a big difference is the students that come to a program like this [come] because they really want that.”

Though the program is still new, program evaluation strategies are still being used in order to determine if anything needs to change.

Wangerin said the students have been great about providing feedback for improvement, and the students have been very pleased with the way the program has rolled out overall.