Fall 2007 Cover
SCAN"College of St. Catherine The College of St. Catherine

Fall 2007
 
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A new School of Health allows the College of St. Catherine to integrate its 21 healthcare programs — grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and the liberal arts — and help meet urgent social needs such as rising healthcare costs, an aging population and a dearth of healthcare workers with four-year degrees.

BY PATRICIA KELLY
PHOTOS BY TONY NELSON

St. Kate's reputation as a top-notch nursing school will soon be a thing of the past.

And that's great news.

Thanks to the formation this fall of the College of St. Catherine School of Health, which brings together the College's 21 healthcare programs — from nursing and physical therapy to phlebotomy and holistic health — the word is getting out: St. Kate's is not only an exceptional nursing school but a top-of-the-line educator in many healthcare disciplines, and it is poised to become a major player in the evolution of healthcare for the 21st century.

With 2,000 students and 200 faculty members in its healthcare programs, the College is uniquely positioned to respond to the challenges and opportunities facing healthcare today. Judging by the experts who have lined up to serve on the School of Health advisory board — including HealthPartners Chief Executive Mary Brainerd and Fairview Health Services' Special Counsel to the CEO David Page — the healthcare community, both regionally and nationally, seems to agree.

"Our size and our history, but more importantly our demonstrated excellence and progressive philosophy and convictions around health and healthcare education, position us to be a thought leader, as well as a reliable and trusted educator of healthcare professionals," says Andrea J. Lee, IHM, president of the College of St. Catherine.

"Wellness and prevention need to be a first priority, and that's what the School of Health is all about."

— Toné Blechert, associate dean of health professions and two-year programs

Photo by Dave Hrbacek

"We can lead and influence and help transform the healthcare system through educating both its leaders and practitioners. It's our heritage," adds Margaret McLaughlin, dean of health professions and two-year programs. "We're building on the 150-year healthcare legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph."

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Catherine's founders and sponsors, were the first healthcare educators in Minnesota, founding St. Mary's School of Nursing in 1887 on what is now the College of St. Catherine Minneapolis campus. St. Mary's merged with St. Catherine's in 1986, and the College has embraced the Sisters' commitment to innovative healthcare education and their mission of "serving the dear neighbor" ever since.

That history has paved the way for an impressive record of accomplishments:
  • St. Kate's is second only to the University of Minnesota in the annual number of graduates in all health professions in the state.
  • The College has one of the country's largest educational programs for American Sign Language interpreters working in healthcare.
  • Nationally, it is among only a handful of colleges that offers a three-tiered program of nursing education (associate, bachelor's and graduate degrees) and a baccalaureate major in respiratory care.

And, in a nod to the country's growing interest in Eastern and non-traditional healing practices, St. Kate's was the first college in the Upper Midwest to offer a graduate program in holistic health.

"We can help transform the healthcare system through educating both its leaders and practitioners. That's our heritage."

— Margaret McLaughlin, dean of health professions and two-year programs

Photo by Dave Hrbacek

Looking forward

School of Health programs will respond to current and emerging needs and make optimum use of St. Kate's curricular strengths, according to the faculty members who have spent the past two years developing the concept. "St. Catherine's healthcare faculty and administrators are convinced that healthcare, particularly primary healthcare, must undergo radical reform to respond effectively to access, cost and quality pressures," McLaughlin says.

St. Kate's aims to tackle many healthcare challenges: workforce shortages, an aging population, the increasing diversity of the American people, a growing need for chronic and community-based care and a need for continuing education for members of various health professions. In fact, the College already meets many of those challenges head on — both inside and outside the classroom — through its curricular innovations, work with community partners and commitment to service learning.

"Our School of Health addresses the call of our strategic plan to build upon our academic strengths and respond to emerging educational needs in creative and effective ways," says Lee. "This School reflects clear strategic alignment of our mission and curricular strengths with the need for reform in healthcare education and delivery. The School of Health is the right response at the right time to a critical social need."

"It's not like we just woke up one day and decided to have a School of Health," says Alice Swan, associate dean of nursing. "It evolved from one of our best practices here at St. Kate's, which is reflecting on who we are, what the trends are and how we are expected to do the right thing — and the next thing."

McLaughlin points to St. Kate's dealings with Hmong immigrants — and to a "magnificent" book called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, about the cultural clashes between traditional Hmong culture and Western medical care — to describe current curricular innovations. "The Hmong believe their soul is in their blood," she says, "so when you take a blood sample, you are draining their soul from their body. When the book came out in 1997, it became required reading in our phlebotomy program. Now it's required reading for the medical students at the University of Minnesota."

A larger example of curricular innovation occurred in 2003, when the College decided that its first clinical doctoral program, the doctorate of physical therapy (DPT), should focus on physical therapy practice settings — such as acute care, long-term care and orthopedics — instead of traditional academic disciplines. Students learn in the context of clinical practice in a collaborative environment that stresses critical-thinking skills, which prepares them for today's increasingly complex healthcare environment.

"Our clinical educators have commented that they wished they had trained under this type of innovative curriculum," says Cort Cieminski, director of the DPT program.

That type of response to St. Kate's healthcare programs and graduates is not unusual. "Many people who interact with the Minnesota healthcare systems extol the competence and compassion of St. Catherine-educated professionals, who number 11,000 in Minnesota alone," Lee says. "Many healthcare alumnae lead in their fields and are, like the Sisters of St. Joseph, true visionaries in pressing toward new imaginings about health and healthcare."

St. Kate's also partners with nearly a thousand community organizations in Minnesota and around the world. All of the College's associate-level programs require students to take a core integrated learning class that includes community work and learning.

"The School of Health evolved from one of our best practices at St. Kate's: reflecting on who we are, what the trends are and how we do the right thing."

— Alice Swan, associate dean of nursing

Photo by Dave Hrbacek

"That's a huge difference between us and other colleges," says Toné Blechert, associate dean of health professions and two-year programs. "If you are going to serve diverse communities in this country and beyond, then you have to connect with multicultural groups and learn from them about their cultural needs when it comes to their health."

Despite Minnesota's reputation for good healthcare, it ranks only 16th in healthcare outcomes for communities of color — and the way to improve that is through relationship-centered learning, which will be the "centerpiece" of the School of Health, Blechert says.

"A key part of our work now is helping students learn how to create relationships with people who are different from them," she adds. "And so we have partners in the community — lots of them. We knock ourselves out to find many immersion experiences right here in the Twin Cities."

Perpetual education

Among the most important priorities on the School of Health's agenda is to help solve healthcare workforce issues, from the shortage of skilled workers in nursing and other disciplines to the need for lifelong medical education for working practitioners of all types and at every level.

"Eighty percent of the people who are practicing in healthcare today have less than a bachelor's degree," Blechert says. "We are focusing on that 80 percent who are already out and practicing, and who need to ladder up or lattice over into another health field in order to have a more successful career."

The school's baccalaureate completion program for associate-degree nurses has been very successful. And programs in business administration and healthcare management, including the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in healthcare, are attractive to many healthcare professionals with associate degrees. "As a college, we focus on undergraduate and graduate students. But perpetual education is what we need for the healthcare workforce," Blechert says.

The patient, the relationship, is always paramount. "Wellness and prevention needs to be a first priority," Blechert adds, "and that's what the School of Health is all about. It's not that we're leaving acute care behind, but we're moving more strongly into prevention at one end and long-term chronic care at the other — care of people in their own homes and in senior residences. That's how we can support our community more completely."

Grounded in mission

The School of Health will propel St. Kate's to the next level of healthcare education. At the same time, the College will continue with business as usual — educating healthcare professionals who will make a difference in the world.

Building on St. Kate's current strengths, the new School and its programs will employ pedagogy that is value-based, holistic, interdisciplinary, open to evolving technologies and delivery systems, learning centered, team oriented, grounded in the liberal arts, focused on lifelong learning and responsive to diverse learners.

"We use a developmental curriculum and begin where the student 'is' to promote her learning and get her where she needs to be. We do that through case-based learning, community work and learning, and a heavy emphasis on theory-to-practice application," says Colleen Hegranes, senior vice president, who notes that the liberal arts will continue to be part of every program at the College.

"What students learn in the liberal arts helps them be better professionals in terms of critical thinking, the ability to express themselves and the ability to make decisions."

As the School of Health allows more collaboration among departments, with a focus on interdisciplinary learning, curricular changes inevitably will occur. Among the goals is a series of connected courses that examine themes such as healthcare public policy, as well as a focus on how technology — such as electronic medical records — can help healthcare professionals make more precise and yet humane decisions.

Technological skill has become a required core competency for all healthcare professionals. With the School of Health, St. Kate's will implement a unitary curricular focus on technology, ensuring that all healthcare graduates achieve desired levels of competence — and that they also use technology as a tool for relationship-centered care.

"Technology is not the goal. It's a tool," says Swan. "Everyone uses technology to find information. At the same time, everyone has their human personhood, and we don't want to lose people in the technology.

Technology is a tool to help students learn how to think — and how to think on behalf of patients."

That's in keeping with the St. Catherine's mission.

"The educational philosophy embraced by the School of Health is grounded in our deep religious values about the dignity of human persons, the core principle of Catholic Social Teaching," says President Lee. "Our programs center on the learner and are focused on preparing collaborative and complementary healthcare team members. We believe this approach will best prepare health professions for enlightened modes of practice."

Who is the St. Kate's healthcare graduate of today — and tomorrow? "A scholar-practitioner," McLaughlin says. "That means that the student engages in reflective practice, is value-based and holistic, and is interdisciplinary, team oriented, and people-, patient- and community-centered. Each student also is grounded in the liberal arts and is a lifelong learner."

Patricia Kelly is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer who writes often about business issues and higher education.

St. Paul freelance writer Nancy Giguere provided additional reporting.

TOP OF PAGE
 

Focus on Our Graduates


Council of Advisors


Mary Madonna Ashton '44, CSJ, M.H.A., M.S.W.
Former Commissioner,
Minnesota Department of Health
Founder, St. Mary's Clinics

Catherine Bendel '81, M.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics,
University of Minnesota Medical School

Mary Brainerd
President and CEO, HealthPartners

Mary Broderick, Ph.D.
President and CEO, Catholic Eldercare

Mark Eustis
President and CEO, Fairview Health Services

Timothy Hanson
President and CEO, HealthEast Care System

Mary Heinen '58, CSJ, R.N., Ph.D.
Board of Directors, Catholic Charities
Board of Trustees, College of St. Catherine

David MacPherson, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer, VA Healthcare

Jan Malcolm
CEO, Courage Center
Former Commissioner,
Minnesota Department of Health

Susan Schmid Morrison '60, R.N., B.A.
Board of Trustees, College of St. Catherine

David Page
Special Counsel to the CEO,
Fairview Health Services
Board of Trustees, College of St. Catherine

Anita Pampusch '62, Ph.D.
President, The Bush Foundation
President Emerita, College of St. Catherine

Karen Dolan Rauenhorst, R.N., M.P.H.
Board of Trustees, College of St. Catherine

Rev. Larry Snyder
President and CEO, Catholic Charities U.S.A.
Alexandria, Virginia

Joseph Swedish
President and CEO, Trinity Health
Novi, Michigan

Mary Wakefield, R.N., Ph.D.
Director, Center for Rural Health,
University of North Dakota
Chair, Board of Stewardship Trustees,
Catholic Health Initiatives, Denver, Colorado

Healthcare By The Numbers


13.5 million: the total number of healthcare jobs in the United States in 2004.

3.6 million: projected number of new wage and salary jobs created in healthcare between 2004 and 2014.

1.9 million: the number of jobs held by registered nurses in 2004. Registered nurses constitute the largest healthcare occupation.

4.9%: percentage of African Americans employed as RNs.

43%: percentage of nurses in Minnesota age 50 or older in 2005.

15%: percentage of Minnesota's healthcare workforce employed in nursing or residential care.

66%: projected growth in home healthcare employment nationwide between 2004 and 2014.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota Department of Health

— Nancy Giguere

Leading by Example


The College of St. Catherine has quietly led the way in healthcare education for decades. Did you know, for example, that St. Kate's:

...has 7 new healthcare programs in active development and a dozen more in early-development stages.

...offers 21 different programs in healthcare.

...offers the ONLY associate degree in ophthalmic technology in the Upper Midwest.

...was the 1ST college in the nation to offer an associate degree in occupational therapy.

...was the 1ST college in the nation to graduate blind practitioners in physical and occupational therapy assistant programs.

...offers experienced health professionals with an associate degree an opportunity to complete a bachelor's degree in healthcare management.

...offers a major in healthcare sales.

— Nancy Giguere
 
Learn More about the College of St. Catherine School of Health at: www.stkate.edu/soh.