The New School of Nursing at Providence College

Artist’s Rendition of Providence’s New School of Nursing Scheduled for Completion 2025

Providence College (PC) is a private four-year Catholic college located on an urban campus two miles west of downtown Providence, RI. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,298 and admissions are selective, with a 2022-23 acceptance rate of 47%. The college offers 72 bachelor’s degrees, has an average graduation rate of 85%, and a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. All classes are taught by full-time professors and half of all classes have fewer than 20 students. PC is ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Reports in Regional Universities North.

The School of Nursing

PC made an major announcement last September. For the first time in its 105-year history, the college will offer academic programs in nursing and health sciences, which will be offered through the newly established School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Last year, the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education granted formal approval to the college for a bachelor of science degree program in nursing. PC began accepting applicants for the program during the 2022-23 admissions season and the first students will matriculate in fall 2023.

This summer, PC will begin construction of a new School of Nursing and Health Sciences facility on the current site of Fennel Hall. The five-story, 125,000-square-foot School of Nursing and Health Sciences will be the largest on campus when it is completed in 2025.  

The facility will include space to support technologically advanced clinical simulations and health assessment laboratories. It will have a 7,000-square foot suite that simulates a hospital floor for acute-care patients. Under the supervision of instructors, students will learn how to use medical equipment, perform diagnostic tests, and update records on digitally controlled mannequins, which are full-body patient simulators that mimic human anatomy and physiology. The Clinical Simulation Suite will make it possible for 50% of a nursing student’s required clinical experience to take place on campus.

The building also will feature a 100-seat auditorium-style classroom, student study areas, research labs, and “makerspace” for collaboration. There will also be a student advising and career center, faculty offices, a chapel, a plaza and pavilion, and a dining facility. The School of Nursing will anchor the eastern end of the campus and serve as a center for all PC students. 

For the first year of the nursing program, enrollment will be limited to 50 freshmen. Fifty current health science majors will also be included, increasing the size of the class to 100 students. Enrollment will be capped at 75 students per year for each of the two programs, making it a modest program at first compared with peer institutions. The focus will remain on the academic excellence of the student body and faculty in order to raise the school’s reputation. Upon graduation of the initial class in 2027, the School will receive full accreditation from the state. PC then plans to increase enrollment at a faster pace.

Upon successful completion of PC’s bachelor of science in nursing program, graduates will be eligible to enter professional nursing practice as Registered Nurses (RN’s) after earning a satisfactory score on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Graduates will also be well-prepared for advanced study in nursing at the graduate and doctoral level.

The college’s administration has stated that the plan for the School of Nursing fully conforms with the college’s mission of service, but notes that other factors also contributed to its development. The largest generational cohort in American history, the baby boomers, now demands more and more from healthcare institutions at a time when college enrollment is declining. PC is seeking to draw students from a shrinking pool of applicants by attracting them to the fast-growing health care field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in healthcare is expected to grow 13% from 2024 to 2030 — faster than any other major employment field. The Department of Labor forecasts about 2 million new jobs in the field over the next decade.  

PC’s Commitment to the Liberal Arts

PC places a high value on a liberal arts education. The majority of undergraduates declare majors in the liberal arts. Regardless of major field of study, undergraduate students are required to complete a core curriculum of Mathematics, Philosophy, Theology, Natural Science, English, Fine Arts, Social Science, and the Development of Western Civilization — the program that best exemplifies PC’s commitment to a sound education in the liberal arts.  

The Development of Western Civilization is a two-year program of courses for all underclassmen at PC. The class meets three days a week, with one day for seminar work or exams. It is taught by a team of professors who specialize in literature, art, theology, philosophy, or history. The program has three semesters of standard lecture with topics ranging from ancient history to the modern world. The fourth and final semester of the program is organized into colloquia and specialized courses that focus on each student’s interests.

Although the School of Nursing will be a center for the study of the biological sciences, PC will remain a citadel of the liberal arts. Dr. Kyle McInnis, the inaugural dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, noted that, “The School of Nursing and Health Sciences will not define the college. PC’s culture, mission, and commitment to academic excellence will define it. PC nursing program graduates will be set apart from others in their field because of the liberal arts education they will receive.” 

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