PROVIDENCE — Providence College (PC) President Father Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P., has announced that the College will launch a new School of Nursing and Health Sciences (SNHS). The new school will see the introduction of two new degree programs at PC, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. PC’s existing Bachelor of Science in Health Policy and Management will also become part of the new school.
PC has received formal approval to proceed with the new bachelor’s degree program in nursing from the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education. That came after the College’s Faculty Senate voted to approve the establishment of the new school and its two new degree programs prior to the end of the 2022 spring semester. PC’s Board of Trustees also voiced its approval to move forward with the establishment of the new school and its degree programs.
The new nursing program will be the first such bachelor’s degree program established in Rhode Island in ten years.
Fr. Sicard, who took office as PC’s 13th president on July 1, 2020, said, “Programs like nursing, which focus on the care of others, respect for the dignity of every person, and the importance of service to God and neighbor, flow naturally from and support the Catholic and Dominican mission of Providence College.”
Father Sicard also noted that both nursing and health sciences are a natural fit with the College’s liberal arts identity. Both require the study of science and the mastery of critical thinking skills. Both also are springboards to other careers in the healthcare industry at a time when, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortage of healthcare workers in Rhode Island and the United States has reached a critical stage.
PC will now begin accepting students for the two new degree programs for matriculation in the fall of 2023. Fr. Sicard said the SNHS will build upon PC’s existing academic program and faculty expertise, provide numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, and broaden the College’s reach and impact. PC also is hoping to move quickly into graduate-level programs in the SNHS within a short period of time.
“These academic initiatives will enhance Providence College’s impact on society in ways that honor the institution’s mission and heritage,” said Christopher K. Reilly ’84, the board’s chair. “They will create exciting opportunities for our students – guided by our faculty – to prepare for lives of meaningful service in assistance to our neighbors and our communities.”
Earlier this year, PC and its external consultant conducted a feasibility study to analyze the market and competitive environment, as well as to ascertain the State’s and region’s need for new programs in nursing and health sciences. Last November, PC hired Kyle J. McInnis, Sc.D., FACSM as senior advisor to the president for strategy and planning to lead that effort. Dr. McInnis had been Provost at Johnson & Wales University (JWU), and previously was the founding dean of the School of Health Sciences at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Dr. McInnis will now serve as the inaugural dean of the SNHS.
“We believe a PC Nursing degree will be uniquely distinctive, as it will be grounded in the College’s liberal arts curriculum. In addition to the core nursing courses in subjects like anatomy and physiology, we will offer courses aimed at treating the whole human being and not just whatever ails them. That means courses like medical humanities and dual language classes for nursing and health sciences majors,” Dr. McInnis said.
To supplement the feasibility study, Dr. McInnis led a team of Providence College officials who met with a number of hospital CEOs, chief nursing officers and human resources executives, as well as directors of long-term care facilities and community-based clinics, over the last several months to share PC’s plans and to learn about staffing needs for their respective organizations. “The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and supportive,” Dr. McInnis said. “We were told that our students will be welcome in their facilities and each organization also assured us of their commitment to provide clinical placements for our students, which we expect will be needed beginning in January 2025.”
SNHS has launched a national search for an Inaugural Chair of the Department of Nursing. In the interim, Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P., Ph.D., RN will serve as nursing director for the Department of Nursing. Brother Ignatius has extensive experience in nursing practice, education, research, and healthcare ethics at a number of schools of nursing and in other professional organizations and health services.
PC has begun planning for a 100,000 square foot state-of-the-art SHNS facility that will be located on its campus. This new facility will consist of innovation spaces to support technologically advanced clinical simulations and health assessment laboratories. The College plans to break ground in the near future and anticipates that the project will be completed in time to sustain clinical practice in the spring of 2025.