During the 2020-2021 academic year, Saint Leo University proudly unveiled its first-ever College of Health Professions. The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Education and Health Promotion was the first program to be offered within this new college.

Starting in the fall of 2021, two new programs – a face-to-face Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an online Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy – will launch.

We recently caught up with Dr. Kathy Van Eerden, dean of the College of Health Professions at Saint Leo University, to focus on the exciting new nursing degree program.

Q: Why did Saint Leo University decide to launch the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program?

A: A review of the data identified the future projections for health professions in Florida and the southeast region. The findings supported the need for the nursing degree program. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations in the coming years.

In addition, nursing and health professions align well with the Saint Leo University core values and our mission to make a difference within our communities.

Q: What types of students is the nursing degree program geared toward?

A: We are looking for students who see a role as a provider of care and leader in practice in their future. Nursing students are health-minded with a passion for helping others and they want to make a positive impact on the health of their communities.

Q: What are the admission requirements?

A: Given the rigor of the curriculum, this is considered a limited-access program. This means we are very selective in terms of admission to the program.

Students initially begin as pre-nursing majors, completing arts and sciences courses in their first two years. During their sophomore year, they submit an application for admission to the nursing program.

Students must meet certain grade point average and course grade requirements and must perform well on a standardized national nursing entrance exam.

Ultimately, the most qualified applicants will be admitted into the program.

Q: How is this program delivered?

A: The nursing program will be offered at University Campus in Saint Leo FL which is in the Tampa Bay area.

Q: How would you describe the curriculum in this nursing degree program?

A: The nursing curriculum for this degree program focuses on generalist nursing practice and applied clinical judgement. Overall, the curriculum takes a contemporary, forward-thinking approach with an innovative model focused on holistic, person-centered care. Our goal is to help students see how they can make a positive impact on the health of people in a range of settings.

Q: What makes this nursing program unique?

A: One of the many unique aspects of this program is our focus on the well-being of the clinician. We want our students to develop resilience and stress management skills so they will know how to cope with situations they encounter in their work.

I should add that all of our College of Health Professions degree program curricula have an emphasis on clinician well-being in order to prepare students for a long and rewarding career in the health field.

Q: Who are the faculty teaching in this program?

A: The faculty meet requirements identified by the Florida Board of Nursing and nursing program accreditors. They must have work experience and expertise in the classroom, lab, and clinical areas in which they teach.

Q: Can you describe the registered nurse licensing exam?

A: This exam involves clinical judgement and decision-making on a range of topics. It is a written exam with a focus on potential practice scenarios and the best decisions nurses can make in those situations.

The length of the exam depends on student responses to the questions. For example, if the test-taker answers a complex question correctly, they move on to another difficult question. They may receive as few as 75 questions or as many as 225 questions depending on their responses.

Q: How does this nursing degree program prepare students for success on this exam?

A: Our program content is very much targeted to prepare beginning practitioners for success, including preparation for this exam. The nursing program courses will cover hundreds of topics which may be addressed on the exam.

Q: What are some examples of topics covered in the nursing courses?

A: Before the nursing major courses, students complete two years of arts and sciences coursework. Once they begin the nursing courses their junior year, some areas of focus include:

  • Culture of Health
  • Contemporary nursing practices
  • Healthcare quality and safety and clinical decision-making
  • Nutrition and wellness
  • Acute/chronic nursing care
  • Mental health nursing
  • Nursing care of women, children, and families
  • Nursing care in hospitals, long-term care, and community settings

Q: Are there clinical experiences in this program?

A: Students participate in a range of clinical experiences. The Florida Board of Nursing requires that nursing programs provide clinical hours to assure that students are prepared for practice. Students will work closely with faculty who oversee each student's on-site clinical practice in a variety of healthcare and community settings.

Q: What are some specific career opportunities for graduates from the program?

A: The beauty of nursing is that there are so many avenues that graduates can pursue. While people often think of nursing positions in hospitals, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can also help graduates attain employment in:

  • Long-term care
  • Home care and hospice
  • K-12 and post-secondary schools
  • Community agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Corporate workplace settings with employee health and wellness programs

I am happy to say that our nursing program exposes students to a variety of settings so they can determine which career path resonates with them.

Q: What does the current and future job market look like for those interested in pursuing a nursing career?

A: Data has shown a projected growth rate in the nursing field to be 21 percent from 2016 to 2026 in Florida. This clearly shows that nursing is presenting opportunities for employment.

In terms of salary, the average starting salary of many nursing positions in Florida is between $60,000 and $65,000 with bonuses offered to some nurses with experience.

Q: Can graduates of this program pursue a graduate nursing degree program?

A: The Bachelor of Science in Nursing can position students for advanced degrees. Master's degree opportunities exist in a range of areas of study including family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, and nursing leadership.

Q: How can prospective students learn more about this BS in Nursing degree program?

A: Feel free to contact me directly at Kathleen.vaneerden@saintleo.edu.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program page also has additional information.