Recently, Dillard University announced we were suspending new admissions to our baccalaureate and LPN-BSN nursing programs for the 2017-18 academic year in order to conduct a thorough evaluation that would ultimately lead to improved outcomes for our students. The announcement resulted from the university’s commitment to sustaining the program’s legacy.
Begun in 1942, the Dillard University program has the distinction of being the first baccalaureate nursing program in Louisiana; for decades our nursing program has been one of the most successful in the nation. Since our first class graduated in 1947, more than 1,200 nurses have gone on to make contributions locally, nationally, and globally to the healthcare industry. Nursing has been a source of tremendous pride for our students and faculty, and that pride is what has led the university to take its recent action.
Unfortunately, Dillard University finds itself as part of a national trend among HBCUs. In recent years Grambling State University, Bethune-Cookman College, and North Carolina A&T, among others, were faced with either suspension or loss of accreditation of their nursing programs. Some schools have made the difficult decision to eliminate their programs entirely.
Because Dillard University feels that our nursing program is a part of our identity, woven into the fabric of our institution, we choose to meet this challenge head on. The models for success are out there, and we will be collaborating with institutions that have been able to revitalize their nursing programs to identify best practices and strategies that can help us restore Dillard nursing to the lofty position it enjoyed for so many years. We will also continue to work closely with the Louisiana State Board of Nursing.
Whether we must address our curriculum, our faculty, or even our process of screening students who enter the program, we are resolute in our commitment to reestablishing a world-class nursing program at Dillard.
Nurses account for the single largest segment of healthcare professionals in the U.S., yet of that group less than 10 percent identify as African American, so it is critical that our HBCUs continue to develop quality nurses.
According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly one-third of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement age. Sixteen different states are expected to have shortages of qualified registered nurses within the next decade. With the registered nursing sector expected to grow by 26 percent, more than 14 percent faster than all other industries, and with HBCU graduates comprising more than 20 percent of African American degree holders, it is vital to the economic growth of our community that institutions like Dillard develop highly qualified nursing candidates that can compete with those from any nursing program in the nation.
At Dillard, we expect excellence. Not just from our students, but from our faculty and staff. While this is a difficult time for our nursing program, we feel that the steps we have taken and those we will take in the coming months will create an environment that will produce an exceptional nursing program and most importantly, exceptional nurses.