Gonzaga University opens enhanced nursing school

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Gonzaga University will combine two departments and expand them into a new School of Nursing and Human Physiology, hoping to meet the demand, driven by federal health care reform, for medical professionals.

The university said Monday it will combine its Nursing Department, which offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, and its Human Physiology Department, which offers a bachelor of science degree, to create GU's first new school in nearly 40 years.

Spokane now has two schools of nursing within a few blocks of each other; the Washington State University College of Nursing is across the river at the Riverpoint Campus.

Neither Brenda Stevenson Marshall, inaugural dean at Gonzaga's new school, nor Lisa Brown, chancellor at WSU-Spokane where the nursing college and the new medical school are located, see that as competition.

"What I see is the opportunity for us to collaborate," said Marshall, who previously helped establish the School of Health Sciences at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. "The Affordable Care Act has led to a new demand for nurse practitioners."

Brown said Gonzaga's restructuring will give students more opportunities to be educated in nursing: "We certainly can't do it all. We already turn away students."

Gonzaga's nursing and human physiology programs currently have about 1,200 students in all levels of study. The university wants to add some graduate-level programs, including a doctorate in nurse anesthesia practice in 2015, if it can receive accreditation. Its programs will continue to emphasize Jesuit principles of social justice and caring for under-served populations, Marshall said.

The WSU College of Nursing has about 750 students in undergraduate and graduate programs, and offers a doctorate in nursing practice.