School of Nursing toasts 50th anniversary milestone

With glasses held high, the Quinnipiac School of Nursing toasted the 50th anniversary of its first graduating class during a special Bobcat Weekend event that honored the past, saluted the present and embraced the future of nursing education.

On Saturday, September 17, the School of Nursing community held an evening reception with a sparkling cider toast to celebrate 50 years of preparing nurses in practice and leadership to advance compassionate care in our global healthcare system. The event included welcoming remarks from Dean Lisa O’Connor, a toast to the Class of 1972, and a virtual reality demonstration with students that showcased the future of healthcare education led by Liana Kappus, director of simulation.

“It is an honor to be standing with you today, together, as we pause to recognize our alumni, our nursing friends, families, colleagues, and most importantly, we recognize that 50 years ago, we graduated our very first nursing students from Quinnipiac,” said O’Connor. “This event is the beginning of the formal celebration of our history, our traditions and our alumni. Consider how much Quinnipiac College and now, Quinnipiac University, nursing alumni have impacted healthcare and have touched the lives of thousands of patients. It is truly awesome to consider the magnitude of the breadth and depth of our reach and our impact as a School of Nursing.”

As she reflected on a half-century of growth and change, O’Connor spoke in gratitude for the continued strength of community partnerships like those with Hartford HealthCare, the Yale New Haven Health System, and numerous community clinical partners, large and small, who provide enhanced learning opportunities, resources and professional development for Quinnipiac students.

“Our strategic focus in the School of Nursing is on curriculum, community, alumni, partnerships and prominence, along with diversity, equity and inclusion,” said O’Connor. “All of our healthcare partners, schools, community agencies and hospitals are highly valued, unique and excellent in the way they support our students.”

She also highlighted recent initiatives such as the launch of the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program, the development of a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, the addition of a January-start accelerated second degree baccalaureate program, and a significant investment in the school’s simulation program with a $500,000 endowed professorship gift in simulation science.

The Saturday reception marked the first in a series of planned 50th anniversary events that will provide an opportunity for the nursing community to connect and reflect on the shared foundation of Quinnipiac University.

“It’s really been exciting planning for tonight’s launch of the 50th celebration, and we’re looking forward to a larger event in April 2023 that will bring together our alumni, students, current and former faculty members and our community partners to honor this milestone,” said Lisa Rebeschi, associate dean of the School of Nursing. “I think 50 years of producing compassionate nurses at the RN, APRN and Doctoral level, and the impact that QU has had on healthcare specifically, is something that needs to be recognized and celebrated.”

From the first class of 18 students, Quinnipiac’s nursing program has grown to an enrollment of 1,100 students, with 46 full-time and more than 100 part-time faculty members and an active alumni network of 4,500 graduates worldwide. Named a formal school in 2011, the School of Nursing boasts nine academic programs spanning bachelor’s, master’s and Doctor of Nursing Practice degree offerings. Over the years, the school has expanded from its humble allied health beginnings in the Mount Carmel Echlin Center to its current home in state-of-the-art facilities within the collaborative environment of the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences on Quinnipiac’s North Haven Campus.

While 50 years has brought about many changes, the one thing that has remained consistent is the school’s commitment to preparing highly skilled, collaborative and compassionate nurses poised for success in an evolving healthcare environment.

“The School of Nursing operates under the framework of three very important pillars: holism, inter-professionalism and inclusivity,” said O’Connor. “Wherever and however we can, we have incorporated these three pillars into our curriculum, scholarship, teaching and our service activities.”

For students at the event like senior Zach Hogan, that commitment is a defining hallmark of the School of Nursing.

While I was comparing nursing programs, Quinnipiac really stood out because of their holistic approach to nursing,” said Hogan, who plans to continue in pediatrics after graduation. “I thought it was such an interesting take on nursing and something I valued myself. Hearing about the opportunities like simulation labs and advancements they’ve embraced, I thought it would help prepare me the most for whatever the future may hold in healthcare.”

Hogan and fellow seniors Michael Cunningham and Mia Carole eagerly stepped forward to demonstrate the virtual reality simulation program that highlighted the various ways technology has transformed nursing preparation. Through virtual reality simulations, students can interact with patients and healthcare partners in realistic case scenarios to enhance patient communication, critical thinking response and clinical skill development.

The event capped off an eventful Bobcat weekend for the Gibbons family from Bronxville, New York. It also marked the beginning of senior year milestones as parents Adam and Ingrid joined their son, Tomas, at the reception. After graduation, Tomas is interested in pursuing the clinical areas of emergency or critical care.

“As parents, we are just thrilled with the School of Nursing and have been impressed with how much Tomas has learned and grown during his time at QU,” said Adam. “Seeing the facilities and speaking to his faculty members tonight has helped us to get a sense of what nursing is going to be like in the future. This event was the highlight of Bobcat Weekend for us.”

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