History of USCB Nursing Program
The University of South Carolina Beaufort’s (USCB) nursing program began with the vision of former University Chancellor Dr. Jane Upshaw, who recognized the importance of baccalaureate nursing education to workforce development and the long term health and well-being of citizens in the Lowcountry. As USCB was approaching four year degree granting status, Dr. Upshaw, assisted by Colleen Callahan, former Development Director, initiated the planning process for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program. Through a generous grant from the Hilton Head Island Foundation, Inc., USCB hired a nursing consultant to conduct a feasibility study that included a four county area (Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, and Hampton). The study, completed in 2003, verified that the Lowcountry region had a body of students eager for a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a number of health care professionals able to teach them, and several regional health care institutions ready to employ BSN’s upon their graduation.
In fall 2004, USCB opened its doors as a four year degree granting institution. Shortly thereafter, in March 2005, Susan Williams, PhD, RN was hired as a consultant to develop the necessary documents seeking approval for the BSN as one of the USCB’s priority degree programs. In May 2005, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) approved the program proposal summary and invited a full program proposal. In October 2005, the proposed program was approved by the USCB Faculty Senate, and in February 2006, it was approved by the USC Board of Trustees. In July 2006, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) indicated that the proposed BSN program could be added to the list of already approved USCB degree programs. CHE gave its final authorization in October 2006 for USCB to grant the baccalaureate degree in Nursing. This latter event was followed by the appointment of Dr. Susan Williams as department chair for nursing. With approval from CHE, USCB was positioned to admit its first cohort of RN to BSN Completion students in fall 2007.
The four year, pre-licensure track, however, required further approval from the South Carolina Board of Nursing. The approval process involved submitting a proposal and self-study that were reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Nursing (ACON). On October 2, 2007, the ACON site team visited the USCB Hilton Head Gateway campus and provided recommendations to strengthen the proposed program. The recommendations were addressed and ACON subsequently endorsed the program to the full Board of Nursing. The South Carolina Board of Nursing (SCBON) voted to approve the program on January 25, 2008.
Subsequent to SCBON approval, a self-study and an application for accreditation was submitted to the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Following a site visit in fall 2008, CCNE granted accreditation for 5 years in April 2009, retroactive to Fall 2008. In spring 2014, a second CCNE site visit was conducted resulting in a ten year accreditation period which expires in 2024.
All along the way, two additional groups have provided invaluable support to program development, the Nursing Community Partnership Board (now the Nursing Advisory Committee), established in March 2006 and the USC System Nursing Deans. Last but not least is the philanthropic support from the greater community. To date, the Hilton Island Foundation, the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Hilton Head Regional Medical Center, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Margaret and Wes Jones, and Dr. Jack and Mary Ellen McConnell have given substantially, thus ensuring that the nursing program facility was completed and supported with new faculty and equipment.
In January 2009 the first class of pre-licensure students started the nursing program. In April 2009 the first five RN to BSN students graduated with a baccalaureate in nursing with additional RN to BSN graduates in subsequent semesters. In April 2011 the first class of 27 pre licensure students completed the program under the direction of a new department chair, Dr. Rose-Kearney Nunnery, appointed in January of that year. Interest in the program continues.