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New Nursing Program to Open at Mills

Taylor Conrad

Set to start next fall, Mills will be offering its first nursing program since the 1960s, beginning during a politically unsettled time in California for nurses.

“Mills can make a difference in the field of nursing. We can offer a solid foundation in liberal arts and sciences and we can mold excellent healthcare workers,” said Joan Jaffe, associate Dean of Admissions.

The new innovative program is in conjunction with the nursing program at Samuel Merritt College. Students will take a variety of general education classes at Mills for two years. These classes will offer students a chance to explore fine arts and letters. They will be required to take specified courses in departments such as English, Sociology and Psychology. Upon completion of 17 course credits and a GPA of 3.0, nursing students are guaranteed admission into a two year nursing program at Samuel Merritt College. After students complete the work at Samuel Merritt, they graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Mills was approached by Samuel Merritt College to start up the program, just as local private schools Holy Names University and St. Mary’s College have already done.

“Mills really does do exceedingly well in what Samuel Merritt does not. Mills has strength in arts and sciences where Samuel Merritt has strength in nursing, theory, and clinical. These two things together make for an amazing education,” said Anne Seed, Director of Admissions at Samuel Merritt.

Seed also explained that the geography of Mills and Samuel Merritt would be very convenient to students. The two schools are just five miles apart.

According to Jaffe, Mills was interested because it was another opportunity to educate women and it would offer another program or major for Mills students.

“We provide an incredibly supportive environment, small class sizes and access to the faculty. All the things that make this a wonderful women’s college will extend into this program,” said Jaffe.

The establishment of this new nursing program comes at an interesting time for nurses in California.

Recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken heat from nurses for siding with hospitals about the nurse to patient ratio in most hospitals.

In 1999, then-Governor Gray Davis passed a bill stating that there must be one nurse to every five patients. In November, Schwarzenegger said the implementation must wait until 2008. According to Schwarzenegger, there is a nursing shortage and hospitals can’t afford to staff that many nurses.

“It’s not a nursing shortage, it’s a nursing crisis we have in California,” said Seed.

According to Jaffe, because of the shortage, hospitals have a huge need for nurses and many nurses are starting out their careers at extraordinary yearly salaries of 60 to 80 thousand dollars. The Dean of Nursing at Samuel Merritt, Dr. Audrey Berman, said, “The shortage will continue for a long time, so our students aren’t really concerned about finding jobs.”

Last December, at a women’s conference in Long Beach hosted by Schwarzenegger’s wife Maria Shriver, a group of nurses got up to protest the governor’s political moves against nurses. Schwarzenegger said, “Pay no attention. They are the special interests…I’m always kicking their butt.” Shortly after this comment the nurses were removed from the conference.

Since the conference, nurses have been present wherever the governor has turned. They have set up several protests in Sacramento. They have flown planes with banners reading “DON’T BE BIG BUSINESS’S BULLY” over the governor’s fundraisers. They ran commercials stating that Schwarzenegger is “driven by greed and profits,” during A&E’s biopic on him.

In December, the California Nurses Association sued Schwarzenegger for illegally blocking the law and pushing it to 2008. Last week, a judge ruled in favor of the CNA. Rose Ann DeMoro, CNA’s executive director, called the ruling “monumental.” It was one step in several that could result in the matter being taken to trial.