MARTIN, Tenn. – 2012 marks a double anniversary for the University of Tennessee at Martin nursing program. The first nursing class of UT Martin walked across the graduation stage in 1972 with 53 students, and 2012 also marks the anniversary of the program’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
UT Martin had a two-year nursing program from 1970 to 1991 and began the transition to the BSN program in 1988. At the time it was the only four-year baccalaureate nursing program in West Tennessee outside of Memphis.
From there the program developed into the well-reputed degree that it is today. All 32 graduates of the class of 1995 passed the National Council Licensure Exam required for them to enter the profession, and in 1999 UT Martin’s Student Nurses Association won four top honors at the Tennessee Nurses Association and Tennessee Association of Student Nurses convention.
"The nursing profession itself has progressed, and we have tried to evolve our program in that direction," said Dr. Mary Radford, assistant professor and interim chair of the Department of Nursing. "And that includes incorporating any kind of standards or recommendations that are made from outside agencies."
Nurses 40 years ago were often thought of as doctor's assistants, Radford explained, and dress has changed dramatically from the skirt and cap uniforms of the day. In keeping with technological advances, UT Martin’s nursing program also now has a new simulation lab, complete with mannequins that are programmed to mimic signs of illnesses for students to identify.
“We are able to offer scenarios with the mannequins that students may or may not necessarily encounter in clinicals,” Radford said. “It helps build their confidence level when they are able to practice on something that is so lifelike.”
If accepted into the nursing program at UT Martin, Radford said students should expect a rigorous academic experience.
“But also they can expect to be fully prepared to be successful on their state board exam and to be at the top of their game so to speak among their peers when they go to work in whatever facility that they desire,” she added.
However, difficulty in this case often draws students to UT Martin’s program.
“The board scores for the testing – state scores – that had a big influence and then coming and talking to some of the professors made my decision that much easier,” said UT Martin nursing student of Jackson, J.T. Bell, on his decision to pursue a nursing degree at UT Martin.
Bell and fellow nursing student Katie Snider, of Gleason, echoed Radford in praising the program’s toughness but effectiveness.
“You actually get to go out into the field while you’re doing your undergraduate degree, and trying to complete that, and you get to interact with those patients. And it’s so different than just being in the classroom and talking about it,” Snider said. “You’re actually having to go in and do the job that you’re preparing to do.”
Chelsey Elliott has found success in the nursing industry since her graduation from the UT Martin nursing program in 2006.
She started out at Gibson General hospital in Trenton working in the emergency room. She then moved to the neonatal intensive care unit at Jackson-Madison General Hospital in Jackson for five years and later accepted a nurse practitioner’s position at North Jackson Family Clinic in Jackson. She is also now a term lecturer at UT Martin.
“Nursing classes, they gave us just a really strong foundation so that we knew what to do when certain situations were presented,” Elliott said. “They taught us how to use the knowledge base they gave us to think critically and to work through situations so that we could take the best care of our patients.”
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