DSU Celebrates Nursing Legacy & Honors Visionary Founder
DeSales University has a proud legacy in nursing education, with nursing alumni in positions of leadership in hospitals, health care agencies and academia.
On Friday, October 1, the department of nursing and health at DeSales will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) Program, the first and only graduate program in the area. Festivities marking the special occasion will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the McShea Student Union Commons. Dr. Caroline H. Hollshwandner, who founded the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program (B.S.N.) in 1974, and the Master of Science in Nursing Program in 1984, will also be honored.
According to Dr. Carol Mest, director of the MSN Program at DeSales, Hollshwandner's legacy in nursing has enabled graduate students to be better prepared as advanced practice nurses. Hollshwandner, who served as the department's first chairperson, laid the foundation for a highly respected nursing program at a time when women were a minority in the academic world.
"She was a woman well before her time," said Mest. "Hollshwandner had a vision of nursing in the future, and knew the strength of the program laid in the sound education given them by the faculty."
To date, approximately 749 individuals have graduated with the B.S.N. degree and about 174 with an M.S.N. degree. Nursing alumni from DeSales are currently employed at hospitals, healthcare organizations, physician's offices, school districts and nursing faculty throughout the country. In the Lehigh Valley area, about 116 are at Lehigh Valley Hospital, 55 at St. Luke's Hospital, 23 at Sacred Heart Hospital, six at Easton Hospital and five at Muhlenberg Hospital.
Hollshwandner received her nursing diploma from St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing, and the B.S. in nursing education at Marquette University in addition to completing graduate courses there. She continued undergraduate courses at the University of San Francisco; and in 1965, Hollshwandner received her M.A. in education from St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia. Between 1965 and 1971, she pursued undergraduate and graduate studies at Villanova University and St. Joseph's College. Hollshwandner received her Ph.D. in 1972 from Thomas Jefferson University with a major in Physiology and a minor in Neuroanatomy and Pharmacology. In 1979, she completed a Certificate in Physical Assessment of the Adult at the University of Pennsylvania. Doctoral credits as a clinical specialist resident in medical-surgical nursing, as well as a postdoctoral independent study at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, were completed in 1980.
Reflecting back to early times in establishing the undergraduate nursing program, Hollshwandner recalls that "it took awhile to get it going." This she attributes to the fact that she was an "unknown" in the local nursing community. Her academic studies in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Philadelphia including her professional experiences, removed her from the Lehigh Valley arena. Consequently, Hollshwandner admits, "The only administrative experience I had was as a head nurse." However, despite her uncertainty, she said that the administration was very supportive and committed to the B.S.N. Program.
When the undergraduate program was in its formative stages in 1974, Hollshwandner repeatedly suggested to Father Alexander Pocetto, who served as academic dean at the time, that they must develop an M.S.N. Program. She recalls that whenever they met, she would repeat "how a masters program was needed in the Lehigh Valley." She was determined and persistent in achieving her goal for a graduate nursing program.
As project director, Hollshwandner persevered in trying to establish the masters; however, the general community did not want a graduate nursing program. Frequent discussions relating to a joint nursing venture were attempted with two area colleges, but they proved unsuccessful. This, of course, did not deter Hollshwandner who simply said, "We would do it ourselves."
The MSN Program was established in 1984 at Allentown College, and it was the institution's first graduate program. Four individuals comprised the first graduating class in 1987; namely Donna A. Nayduch, Diane R. Nemeth, Rose Ann Svanda, and Paige Thompson. Over the past 20 years, it has awarded 174 nurses with the MSN degree.
Hollshwandner remembers the complex issues she encountered in developing the M.S.N. Initially, she had to have a consensus on the number of students, she had to plan a financial budget, and more importantly, she had to find suitable well-qualified faculty. Informative and approval issues from the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), which granted approval for a graduate degree program, were handled smoothly. In addition, Hollshwandner arranged for site visitors from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), and sought their initial approval and full accreditation for the M.S.N. program.
In 1987, Dr. Joan F. Grindley succeeded Hollshwandner as chairman of the department, followed by Dr. Karen M. Schaefer in 1996, and Dr. Kerry H. Cheever in 1999. Currently, Cheever, a graduate of the B.S.N. Program in 1980, serves as department chairman.
Cheever recalls the rigorous Anatomy & Physiology classes she attended as a sophomore nursing student. According to Cheever, students had to come to class prepared in advance or they would be left in the dust. She credits Hollshwandner with teaching nursing students how to focus, to come prepared and to never get flustered.
"Dr. Hollshwandner's lectures were wonderful. She never used notes or the blackboard or audiovisuals," said Cheever. "She discussed A&P for 50 minutes straight and she had our attention. Dr. Hollshwandner took no prisoners. The A&P exams were always dreaded; however after A&P, Cheever said, "you were prepared for anything."
As a member of one of the first nursing classes, Cheever recalled that Hollshwandner was honest, forthright, good with students, and that she did not fool around. Senior students learned in the leadership class, that "Nursing is a profession. As nurses you are not trained, you are educated. At Allentown College, we don't train—we educate."
In later years, it was no surprise to the college community to see Hollshwandner in a Latin, computer, music, or French class because she thrives on learning. In fact, she completed 19 courses at DSU; and, 13 were completed in 1987-1998 after leaving the Nursing Department.
Mest said employers constantly seek and respect DSU nursing students knowing that they come from a high-quality program. "Employers recognize that DSU nurses are intelligent, caring, and moral. Consequently, these caregivers strive from within and make good decisions," said Mest. "Students know that we expect them to work hard and there are no excuses."
Currently, the department offers graduate programs that prepare advanced practice nurses as family nurse practitioners, adult advanced practice nurses, and nurse executives. These programs continue to be the only graduate programs in nursing offered by an institution of higher learning within the Lehigh Valley. With the high demand for nurses today, Mest said that more individuals are entering at an early age and remaining in school to complete graduate studies.
Recent MSN alumna, Scarlet Lichtenwalner, RN, MSN, CRNP, states "I chose DeSales because of the location, but I stayed because of the educational excellence of the program. Doors for career advancement have opened in unexpected ways. My career opportunities are endless! I am in a profession I love! I now have opportunities to provide pain management services, as well as to educate locally and nationally in pain management issues." Lichtenwalner works at Pain Specialists of the Greater Lehigh Valley in Allentown.
Diabetes Specialist and MSN alumna, Deborah Feden, RN, MSN, CS, CRNP, is employed at the Helwig Diabetes Center in Allentown, and she appreciated her time at DeSales University. "DeSales RN to MSN Program is working-nurse friendly. The program is a bargain -- I saved time and money by working on my bachelor's degree and master's degree at the same time."
For more information on the nursing anniversary celebration or on the graduate nursing program at DeSales, contact Dr. Carol G. Mest, director of the M.S.N. Program at DeSales, at 610-282-1100, ext. 1394, or at Carol.Mest@desales.edu.
Press Release: DSU Celebrates Nursing Legacy & Honors Visionary Founder | Posted on: 9/26/2004
For more info:
Tom McNamara, Executive Director of Communications
DeSales University | 2255 Station Avenue | Center Valley, PA 18034
610.282.1100 x1219 | Tom.McNamara@desales.edu