Memories of SSU
Janice E. Hitchcock
Professor of Nursing 1972-2000
The Department of Nursing came into effect in 1972. There were seven of us who first developed the courses that had been outlined by Mary Searight, the chairperson of the department.
The first semester was exhilarating and busy. We were often just a class or two ahead of the students. Fortunately, we had a good working relationship because we all needed to implement the curriculum and act as “a committee of the whole” most of the time.
As we worked together, we gradually came to know one another’s personalities and perspectives. For the second semester, we added two faculty members to our group. We were aware that their addition made it necessary to look at the dynamics of adding new members to what had become a closed group. There was little time during the regular faculty meetings and other task force meetings to address these dynamics and some conflicts began to crop up. Just as we expected the students to deal with interpersonal relationships, we realized that we needed to do the same. Therefore, we decided to have some interpersonal meetings outside of our regular program duties. Mary Searight knew of a faculty member from another department, Red Thomas, who was experienced in working with groups and had led groups of nurses in the past, helping them to create a climate for working. The group, which met for several years, became known as “The Red Baron Group.” We continued to have many issues to resolve as we became a larger faculty and were participating in a more complex program. For the second year, we identified issues including the increase in faculty size, structural changes in clinical assignments, crystallization of the conflict with the faculty member who had been hired at mid-semester, repercussions of the conflict on new faculty members and the energy expenditure in the movement toward accreditation.
The second year of the program was exciting but also very busy. We doubled the faculty to address the second year courses. That created enough activity to keep “the groups” occupied. In addition, we had to prepare for program accreditation. The first bomb that dropped came from our consultant from the National League of Nursing. She didn’t believe in our program and thought that nursing should be built on general education rather than included with general education throughout the nursing education experience. On the one hand, we were stunned, but on the other hand, we were angry. We were committed to our new program that allowed graduates of junior college and hospital programs to continue their education without repeating courses they had already taken or testing out of basic nursing courses previously completed. We were also committed to accreditation because our students had taken a chance with us and would have difficulty in their future careers if they graduated from an unaccredited program. Our hard work in both the “group” and accreditation planning paid off: We were fully accredited in time for our first graduation in June 1974.