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Saint Leo 360 Podcast

Episode 33: Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden on Saint Leo’s College of Health Professions

Posted by Greg Lindberg on April 14, 2021
Podcast-Episode33

Download Episode 33 Transcript

Speaker 1:
Saint Leo 360, a 360-degree overview of the Saint Leo University community.

Greg Lindberg:
Hi there, and welcome to another episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast. This is your host, Greg Lindberg here with you. Here on this episode of the podcast, we are speaking about the College of Health Professions here at Saint Leo University, and we have three exciting programs under this college. One that's currently being offered, and two that will start being offered in the fall of 2021. And to help us discuss all of these exciting programs, I'd like to welcome Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden, who is the dean of the College of Health Professions here at Saint Leo University. Dr. Van Eerden, welcome.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Thank you, Greg.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. I'm really excited about this conversation and certainly some new programs for the university that we've had our eyes on for a long time. So really excited to have you and discuss this today. So first off, Dr. Van Eerden, why don't you just give the listeners a little intro, just a little bio about yourself to start us off here?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Sure, absolutely. I have extensive background in particular, in nursing and nursing education. Having worked as a practitioner, an educator and administrator in different positions had an opportunity to start new programs, and I've also been involved in working as an administrator for health professions programs in addition to nursing. So, I have an extensive background, and do have expertise in curriculum and evaluation of health professions programs as well.

Greg Lindberg:
Gotcha. Very interesting. And talk to me about just your journey to Saint Leo University, and perhaps we can get into the reasons behind Saint Leo starting this new College of Health Professions.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Absolutely. About three years ago, I had an opportunity to visit Saint Leo, and at that time, I learned that leadership had an interest in expanding into the realm of health professions. They've had that interest for some time, but it hadn't yet come to fruition. So, when a decision was made to formally pursue health professions, I came on board in a planning capacity, and have moved ahead with development of several programs which are now offered at Saint Leo.

Greg Lindberg:
I see. Very interesting. So, let's dive a little more specifically into the three programs that are currently under the College of Health Professions. And let's start off with the bachelor of science in health education and health promotion. And Dr. Van Eerden, if you could just talk to me about the reasons behind starting this particular program and kind of the goals of the program?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Sure. Health education and health promotion has been on the forefront for some time, in particular, as people have focus more and more on their own wellness and that of their family and communities as well. Obviously, as COVID has unfolded, we've come to realize that the role of a health educator is really key to helping people to learn best practices. The health education and health promotion major actually began in those planning stages prior to COVID. However, as I said, this major is identified as key to public health and overall health promotion.

Greg Lindberg:
All right. I see. And in terms of admission requirements and what someone must have in their arsenal, so to speak, to be able to enter this program, let's talk about that.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Sure. Students that pursue this major are admitted to Saint Leo with our general admission requirements. There are no requirements specific to this program, but that said, we know that students in the health education and health promotion major are health-minded, they tend to have more of an interest in an educator role as supposed to a clinician or hands-on role.

Greg Lindberg:
I see. And then in terms of where the program is offered, this one is strictly on university campus, correct?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yes. This program is offered at our university campus in the Tampa Bay area, just north of Tampa.

Greg Lindberg:
Sure. In terms of the types of students who might be interested in enrolling in this program, what would you say as far as demographics career interests?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Let's say that this program would clearly appeal to all ages, there aren't specific demographics. Again, those that are interested in health and wellness, have an affinity to education, and interest in planning and implementing and evaluating health education programs are the students that we're seeing.

Greg Lindberg:
Right. I see. In terms of the faculty, talk to me about the faculty teaching in this program?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yeah. Faculty are diverse, diverse backgrounds, public health and related areas. Faculty bring expertise specific to health education and health promotion as well.

Greg Lindberg:
Right. I see. Interesting. And let's talk a little further about the curriculum, the courses offered in the program and then just kind of an overview of those.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Sure. Our curriculum is a very contemporary and interdisciplinary focus. We collaborated closely with our College of Education and Social Services in the design of the curriculum. And it is unique in that it has a much stronger emphasis on teaching and learning best practices than some programs that are out there. So, students pursue coursework specific to teaching, learning, program evaluation. They also look specifically at content on health and wellness, so they're well-versed in needs across the lifespan.

Greg Lindberg:
Oh, I see. Very interesting. In terms of career opportunities, perhaps even grad school, if someone is interested in pursuing that after earning this bachelor's degree, what are some examples? I guess we could start with kind of the career route and then perhaps get into some grad school options as well.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Absolutely. Health education specialists have a number of different career options. We see students pursue careers in corporate wellness where they're aligned often with human resources department working on employee wellness offerings. Health education specialists may affiliate with healthcare institutions, again, providing healthcare programs and resources for employees. There are roles for health education specialists in governmental institutions as well as community organizations and even non-profits. For example, a non-profit organizations such as the American Heart Association utilizes health educators in planning and developing, and implementation and evaluation of a range of health offerings.

Greg Lindberg:
Oh, I see. So quite a variety of options in terms of career paths, it sounds like.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Absolutely. Certainly, community health offers opportunities. Most recently, we've learned that public health roles will be significantly expanded, and certainly, that would include opportunities for health educators as well.

Greg Lindberg:
Very nice. And if someone were interested in pursuing grad school, let's say perhaps they got this degree and then had a number of years of experience, and wanted to go on to get that graduate degree. What would you say some examples of graduate programs with this degree might be?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
It very much depends upon the student's area of interest and their aspirations, but certainly a master's degree in healthcare management, which is an area of study at Saint Leo. A master's in business with a healthcare concentration. Certainly, there may be future opportunities for a master's in public health. Still, a range of options depending upon the student interests.

Greg Lindberg:
Sure. I see. Nice. All right. So, let's transition on to the next program. So, I should mention that the program we just spoke about, the bachelor's in health education and health promotion, we did launch in the fall of 2020. And then these next two programs are starting in the fall of 2021 here at Saint Leo. So, next up we have the bachelor of science in respiratory therapy. And talk to me about the reasons behind offering this program.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yeah, the bachelor of science in respiratory therapy has been advocated for by the national respiratory care organization for several years. As a result of that level of support, there has been interest among students in a bachelor degree program. Currently, the majority of respiratory therapists are in associate of science in respiratory therapy through a state college or community college. Following that program, they pursue their licensure, and are able to seek employment. For respiratory therapists that aspire to managerial roles or professional development, a bachelor of science in respiratory therapy is an excellent option.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. And in terms of admission requirements, I know you mentioned the licensure, it sounds like this program might have some few additional requirements? Is that accurate?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yes. This program does require that the student have a registered respiratory therapist license, which is an unencumbered, that means they are in good status with their license. The students that pursue this program generally currently employed, they need a minimum of a 2.5 or higher grade point average in their associate degree program as well.

Greg Lindberg:
Oh, I see. And then let's talk about where this program is offered?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
The bachelor of science in respiratory therapy is a strictly online program. Again, it focuses on that junior and senior level, and includes courses specific to bachelor of science education in respiratory therapy.

Greg Lindberg:
Oh, I see. And I would imagine that obviously, like many of our online degree programs that it really gives the student a lot of flexibility, whether they're working, whether they're say raising a family to have that online option.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yeah. The online option is really essential for students that pursue this major, because they are working professionals. They do work different shifts, different days. They work weekends, holidays. The online format works well for their lifestyle. It gives them that flexibility.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. And let's talk about the faculty, who will be teaching in this program?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Faculty in this program are absolutely qualified. They are respiratory therapists. They have backgrounds that are strong in education, in practice as well. And we also have faculty with expertise in health professions, including public health and knowledge of communication, and research practices in particular.

Greg Lindberg:
Right and very nice. And then in terms of the courses and the different topics covered in this curriculum, let's dive into those a little bit.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
The curriculum is unique while also focusing on accreditor areas of emphasis. Some of our unique courses include our initial course, which looks at personal and interprofessional communication, and looks at very specific models for use in team communication. We have courses focused on accreditor areas of emphasis in advanced cardiac and respiratory pharmacology and pathophysiology and care management. There is a course that looks specifically at teaching and research. We do have several courses focused on students with an interest in administrative responsibilities. So, of course, that looks at managing a respiratory therapy department. Very unique course that we're offering looks at project management to achieve health outcomes. And that course is applicable whether the student is involved in ongoing practice or in administrative role, or if they aspire to an education position in their future. The curriculum does not have a required practicum, but does have project work that is generally applicable to the area of interest that the student is involved in.

Greg Lindberg:
I see. Very interesting. And then in terms of career opportunities with this degree, so first off, it does sound like, I guess a lot of students would be working then as they pursue this degree, would you say that's accurate?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yes. The majority of students are employed and going to school concurrently. Those that pursue the major, often aspire to a managerial or administrative role. Some employers are seeking applicants with a bachelor's in respiratory therapy, and that motivates some students to pursue this degree. For other students, they may aspire to work and teach in a respiratory therapy program in the future, and this positions them to continue their education so that they might potentially pursue that. And of course, there are always students that really want to build on their current knowledge base, and learn more advanced skills.

Greg Lindberg:
Gotcha. Very interesting. And in terms of graduate programs out there, are there grad programs that are very specific to the respiratory therapy field?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
There are. The number of programs specific to respiratory therapy currently are quite limited. We do see some respiratory therapists with a bachelor's degree pursue a master's in a related field, perhaps a master's in business with a healthcare focus, a master's in instruction or instructional design, for example.

Greg Lindberg:
Oh, I see. Very interesting. Okay. So, to wrap up the programs here, we're going to speak about the bachelor of science in nursing, which as I mentioned is the third program under this College of Health Professions. And this one is also launching in the fall of 2021. And so for this one, Dr. Van Eerden, let's speak about the reasons behind offering this one as well.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Certainly, we know that there's a large projected growth rate in Florida and the Southeast region of the US, and obviously, careers in nursing are in high demand. As the population has changed the demographic to a more aging population as we've seen more people with chronic illnesses, and as we continue to focus on health and wellness, we have seen demand for nurses increase.

Greg Lindberg:
And in terms of the types of students who might be interested in this program as far as demographically, just career interest, how would you kind of describe that group?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Demographics really vary, male, female, all ages, all backgrounds. Nursing is available to anyone and everyone with an interest in health and wellness, an interest in a clinician role. Typically, our students that pursue nursing have a strong background in math and science, and come to us from high school with an extensive background in math and science, including advanced coursework.

Greg Lindberg:
Right. I see. And then as far as admission requirements, any particular requirements that you want to note on this one?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yes. I would like to talk about the admission requirements, they're fairly typical in nursing. At Saint Leo, students initially would be a pre-nursing major student. Requirements for their pre-nursing major include a high school grade point average of 3.0 or higher. We also ask that pre-nursing students review a document that identifies information on background check requirements, which are essential to pursue clinical practice, and licensure as well. Students are a pre-nursing student the first two years, they're freshman and sophomore year. During that time, they're involved in arts and science coursework, courses required by the university. In addition, very specific courses are required for nursing. Those first two years courses such as psychology, college algebra, statistics, an ethics course, a growth and development course and science courses, including anatomy and physiology, one and two and lab courses, as well as microbiology and a concurrent lab course.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
The spring of their sophomore year, students officially apply for the nursing major coursework, and the application requires that students have earned a 3.3 or higher grade point average in their university coursework, including grades of B or higher in college algebra and anatomy and physiology, one and two. In addition, students complete a standardized nursing admission exam, and need to meet a benchmark score. Students submit their application information. A faculty committee reviews the student qualifications, and the most qualified students are selected for the nursing major.

Greg Lindberg:
Interesting. And I think that is definitely important to emphasize that specifically, this program, we really do look for the highest-caliber students.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
We have found that nursing is a very rigorous program and a major of study. As a result, the admission criteria was identified to assist students and likelihood that they can complete the program, successfully complete the national licensure exam required to be a registered nurse. And of course, they need that license to then move into the workforce. And so, the admission criteria helps in assuring that students bring the knowledge and skills to help them to be successful.

Greg Lindberg:
Sure, very well said. And then where exactly is this program going to be offered?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Our bachelor of science in nursing is offered on our university campus in the Tampa Bay area, just north of Tampa.

Greg Lindberg:
Gotcha. I see. Let's dive into the faculty, who will be teaching in this program and just their backgrounds?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Faculty in nursing, they'll have obviously experience in nursing practice. They meet requirements of the Board of Nursing in Florida and accreditor requirements as well. A master of science in nursing is some key background along with some faculty that will come with doctoral degrees.

Greg Lindberg:
Excellent. So quite a variety, and certainly, well-versed, well-experienced faculty. As far as the courses that will be offered in this program, the curriculum, the different topics covered in the curriculum, how would you describe that?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Our curriculum is very contemporary. The nursing curriculum incorporates some key topics. These are also included in our other health professions programs. Our nursing curriculum does emphasize evidence-based practice, interprofessional communication, what we call a culture of health. And there is also emphasis on the wellbeing of the clinician, in this case, the nurse. With these areas of focus, which I said are contemporary and innovative, our curriculum has aligned to achieve those areas of emphasis. And so, the nursing courses include a culture of health focus. This means that in addition to content and experiences focused on working with those that are ill, there a concurrent focus on maintaining and achieving health.

Greg Lindberg:
Interesting. And in terms of career opportunities, obviously, strictly nursing is certainly a popular one, but I would imagine there are some other potential opportunities with this PSN as well, correct?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
The beauty of nursing really lies in the range of career opportunities from acute care to long-term care, to community, to occupational and school health, a range of full-time and part-time opportunities, something for every nurse. Our program exposes students to a variety of settings or clinical experiences along with some simulated experiences that position students, and increase their confidence level when they go out in practice. So, students are given a chance to explore acute care, chronic care, community health, women's health, children's health, mental health. Students learn about all of these areas as it relates to nursing, and they receive from clinical experiences in these areas, often that those experiences help students to determine what their area of interest may be on graduation when they do pursue practice.

Greg Lindberg:
Right. Very interesting. And then just to wrap up on this program, in terms of graduate school, I know that there are definitely options out there as far as at the master's level when it comes to nursing, correct?

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Absolutely. Students with a bachelor's in nursing can pursue a range of master's degrees, depending upon area of interest. Certainly, options in nursing and healthcare are available for those that are business-minded, based in business administration, healthcare management, as well. I did want to mention to the listeners that our nursing program is fully approved by the Florida Board of Nursing. It's also approved by our Saint Leo University accreditor. Our program at this time, does not have a national nursing accreditation. As a new program, we are not able to pursue that as yet. Our intent, however, is to pursue national nursing program accreditation as soon as we are able to do so. That will allow for future options for students if they continue their education.

Greg Lindberg:
Sure. And I appreciate you mentioning those items, definitely are important to note as far as this program.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Yeah. The other thing I did want to hone in on before we conclude, I had mentioned that the wellbeing of the clinician is an area of focus for all of our health professions programs, including nursing. We know that health professions can be stressful for practitioners, and we want to set them up so that they can manage stress, so they are resilient, so they can develop healthy behaviors for themselves. We know that these factors will help nurses have long and very enjoyable careers. And so, as students learn about all of these aspects of nursing care that we mention, they will also look at what's applicable to their own health and wellbeing, and that is unique to our program.

Greg Lindberg:
That's wonderful. And I know, we've had conversations in the past about how COVID-19 has really tested nurses and medical professionals in general, in terms of mental health and just the stresses of dealing with such a terrible pandemic. So, that's fantastic that we offer such a great focus on that in these programs.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Absolutely. So, as I said, nursing is a fabulous career and Saint Leo University is ready to answer the call, and meet that high demand for nurses in the region.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. Okay. Well, I definitely want to thank you, Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden once again for joining me here on Saint Leo 360. I really appreciate your time, and certainly excited about these wonderful programs surrounding the health sciences field.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
I'd like to thank the listeners for your time, and certainly, feel free to contact Saint Leo with questions, and look forward to meeting you.

Greg Lindberg:
Absolutely. Alrighty. Thank you so much.

Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden:
Thank you.

Speaker 1:
To hear more episodes of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, visit saintleo.edu/podcast. To learn more about Saint Leo's programs and services, call (877) 622-2009, or visit saintleo.edu.

Episode Summary

In this episode of the Saint Leo 360 podcast, our guest is Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden, dean of the College of Health Professions at Saint Leo University. With its first degree program having launched in 2020, this is a very new college at Saint Leo under which a total of three high-demand programs will be offered starting in the fall of 2021. In this conversation, Dr. Van Eerden spoke about:

  • Her background in nursing and academia, along with how she came to Saint Leo University
  • The reasons behind starting the College of Health Professions
  • Why Saint Leo launched the BS in Health Education and Health Promotion degree program
  • Types of students this health education degree program is geared toward and where the program is offered
  • Types of courses offered in this program, faculty in the program, and career opportunities with this health education degree
  • Why Saint Leo started the BS in Respiratory Therapy degree program
  • Types of students this respiratory therapy degree program is geared toward and where the program is offered
  • Types of courses offered in this program, faculty in the program, and career opportunities with this degree
  • Why Saint Leo started the BS in Nursing degree program
  • Types of students this nursing degree program is geared toward and where the program is offered
  • Types of courses offered in this program, faculty in the program, and career opportunities with this degree

Links & Resources

Learn more about the College of Health Professions at Saint Leo University and these three exciting health sciences degree programs within the college.

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