Nursing program graduates first cohort

Laura Sandlin, Reporter

BGSU is saying goodbye to its first class of graduating nurses. 

At 10 a.m. on April 29 at the Stroh Center, BGSU will be hosting a graduation ceremony for the College of Health and Human Services.

BGSU announced they were developing a nursing program for students in 2020. At the time, BGSU students could declare their major as nursing, however, they had to choose to take classes either at Mercy Health or The University of Toledo.  

BGSU now offers a traditional Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program. This means students attend the university for four years before becoming a registered nurse. 

Dr. Shelly Bussard, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CNE and Director of the School of Nursing at BGSU says that the program’s development was to help bring more nurses into the world. She says nursing shortages were predicted long before the pandemic, and by 2025 to 2030, there was going to be a significant shortage of nurses. 

“We knew that there was a shortage coming, and we were looking at how we can help as a university,” said Bussard. “So, we were able to take a look at where we are in the school and build the school of nursing and the new program.”

The development and building of the nursing program began to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2021, The BGSU School of Nursing, in the College of Health and Human Services (HHS), had a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the official opening in Central Hall, the home to the nursing program.

These large developments and construction can mean large investments of money. 

“Obviously hiring a lot of faculty and equipment and things like that is a large investment. When we look at the number of students that are going to enroll and then graduate and enter into the workforce, I think we’re going to see that investment pay off very quickly,” Bussard said. 

The graduating seniors came to BGSU in 2019, and their experience was changed drastically due to the pandemic.  

“The university shut down, and they had a semester of being online where they were taking some of the pivotal pre-nursing classes. When you’re a new college student, you’re away from home and going back home you wouldn’t have the resources at home with classes like anatomy and physiology or microbiology, which have a hands-on lab component. It is impactful when your education is uplifted and moved into a virtual world, knowing that these are classes you need for the rest of your life,” said Bussard. 

Sydnie Hocter, a BGSU senior and nursing graduate, says she chose BGSU’s program because she wanted to take classes on campus and be a part of the first nursing class at BGSU. After a semester at Mercy, she decided to transition to BGSU’s program because she felt as though she was not getting what she wanted on an education level from Mercy. 

“My freshman year I was taking classes online that were hard to learn over Zoom. COVID-19 impacted my college career because it has made me adapt to change. I had to adapt my learning and sometimes teach myself in order to understand the material. This has ultimately benefited my future career as a nurse because things are always changing and you have to be able to adapt quickly in order to succeed,” said Hocter. 

Following graduation, Hocter will be relocating to the Cleveland Clinic in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

Kate Fisher, BGSU senior and nursing graduate, said not having to travel to another school for classes helped her decision.

“I decided to enter BGSU’s program because I felt it would create a positive learning environment and it is nice to not have to travel outside of Bowling Green for lectures, labs and simulations. From a nursing perspective, COVID-19 taught me that you have to be prepared for anything and that our job is to advocate for our patients,” she said.

“I have always been passionate about healthcare and my passion for nursing has only grown since starting BGSU’s program.”

Following graduation, Fisher will be relocating to the Blanchard Valley Hospital for a residency program in the ortho/neuro unit. 

Following COVID-19, many universities saw a large decrease in their attendance numbers, however, the opposite happened for BGSU’s nursing program. 

“We have 37 students graduating in 12 days, and then 73 juniors and will be moving into seniors. We have 80 juniors set to come next fall but starting spring of 2025, we are doing a second start date and then we’ll be bringing in an additional 40 students in the spring,” said Bussard.

Bussard said having 80 students in the fall and 40 in the spring helps with the increased growth. She said the program has doubled in size, and is now will be tripling in a year and a half. 

April 3 was the nursing program’s first pinning ceremony. A pinning ceremony acts as recognition for reaching the end of your nursing program and signifies entrance into the profession. 

“Many nurses will wear their pin on their name badge or they’ll put it on their shirts. It’s kind of a symbol of pride like this is the school I went to, and it says BSN and then BGSU. As nurses, you can get certified for certain things and you get a pin for the certification. It acts as a badge of honor,” explained Dr. Bussard. 

Bussard explained further saying that it is nice for the students to have the pinning ceremony separate from graduation because the pinning ceremony is a smaller and more intimate event. 

“This is something that goes nationwide and the students’ experience has been pivotal,” said Bussard.