St. Elizabeth School of Nursing moving to new location

In late July, faculty and staff at the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing did something they have not done since 1922: move into a new facility.

St. Elizabeth School of Nursing moved just across the street from its building at 1508 Tippecanoe Street to its new home in the Franciscan Education Center at Franciscan Health’s Lafayette Central campus. 

But it’s not the only change happening to the school which started at St. Elizabeth Hospital in 1897.

New Space

 “Our faculty members are excited about teaching in a newly renovated location,” says School of Nursing Director Michelle Gerrety, Ed.D, MSN, R.N. “And our students will have access to enhanced technology in an intentionally designed space to promote a positive learning environment.” The new location will be ready to welcome students Aug. 28 when the semester begins.

A café will be located inside the building via the former upper entrance to the hospital as well as prospective and current student focused services such as Admissions, Financial Aid, Registrar and Bursar’s offices, and a student lounge area. An Allied Health Sciences Library will occupy space just off of the open Atrium. Also on the first floor will be classrooms with desks that can be easily arranged to accommodate different configurations; a large conference room that can be transformed to three smaller areas; and several computer labs, which will be shared with students and hospital employees. Community Education’s community classrooms dedicated to CPR and childbirth classes will also be on the 1st floor.

“A Basic Skills Lab will also be in this area for nursing students to provide a wide range of practical experiences from working with IV practice arms to learn how to start an IV to facilities that allow students to learn how to properly give patient baths or make a hospital bed,” says Gerrety. 

The second floor will contain clinical and other staff education and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) offices and classrooms. A High Fidelity Simulation Lab for use by nursing students, licensed practitioners and EMS students, will also be on this floor in space formerly occupied by the ICU. “We’re very excited for the Simulation Lab which will supplement nursing students’ clinical training with virtual, life-like patient mannequins,” says Gerrety. “This facility will provide a safe learning environment to practice clinical and decision-making skills.”

The third floor will primarily be School of Nursing administration, staff and faculty offices. The Community Education offices and conference rooms, as well as the Security Department, will occupy the renovated portion of the ground floor.

New Academic Partner

Since 2004 the School of Nursing had a cooperative program with Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, which afforded students the opportunity to earn a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Saint Joseph’s and a diploma in nursing from St. Elizabeth. The school needed a new partner after Saint Joseph’s announced it was closing in February. 

In May 2017, a new partnership began with the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, thus offering students the opportunity to continue in a cooperative nursing program. Coincidentally, the university has a history in Lafayette and with the nursing school. Saint Francis College was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis in 1890, and it was housed in the current School of Nursing on Tippecanoe Street. The college moved to Fort Wayne in 1944 and changed its name in 1998.

“We are blessed to have this new partnership,” says Gerrety. “In the past, first-year students had to travel to Rensselaer for science and freshman nursing classes. Now, students won’t need to travel. Saint Francis will provide faculty in Lafayette for the science classes and labs.” Students will study online for general education classes, such as psychology or sociology. All St. Elizabeth nursing faculty members will be based in Lafayette and nursing courses will be taught in the new building. Nursing clinical experiences will continue to be held in a variety of hospitals, outpatient centers and community agencies within a 60-mile radius of Lafayette.

“By offering a diploma and the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing we provide the best of both worlds,” she adds. “Our school is known for offering clinical experiences early and often, and students also reap the benefits of a well-rounded education.”

Concept-Based Curriculum

Along with a new location and partnership, the school is implementing a new curriculum focused on concepts, rather than on content. “Previously, students were required to learn a lot of content, resorting to memorizing facts, diseases and so on,” Gerrety says.

“This new curriculum is more focused on active learning about overall concepts and how to apply those concepts across a patient’s life span. There is less time devoted to instructor lecturing, and more on reading ahead of class time and students actively participating in discussions.”

She adds that classrooms will be equipped with multiple white boards to aid in communicating ideas.

Freshman students focus on nursing fundamentals and the sciences, including microbiology and anatomy and physiology courses and one or two general education classes. Sophomores continue with nursing and general education classes, and in junior and senior years, students finish with an assigned preceptor, which means clinical hours with a professional RN overseeing their care. Students can complete their studies in three years if they are interested in attending clinical classes through the summer. 

“We are ready to start this new school year. We are so pleased with this planned, intentional design to promote learning,” says Gerrety. “As the only diploma nursing school in Indiana, and with our partnership with the University of Saint Francis, we look forward to our tradition of preparing our graduates to practice nursing compassionately and confidently.”