Celebrating Our Nursing Professionals

A Message from President Keith E. Whitfield

You may have heard me speak about my father’s decision to return to school after I was born so he could become an officer in the U.S. Air Force. That left an imprint on me about the importance of both service to our country and higher education.

Equally as impactful was what my mother taught me about the vital role nurses play in the health care industry. With a combination of compassion and advocacy, skill and expertise, nurses are both the heart and the mind of a patient’s health care journey.

I witnessed this firsthand during the past year as UNLV School of Nursing students, faculty, and staff seized upon the disruption of the pandemic to improvise, innovate, and act as they helped lead the community through a public health crisis. With true Rebel spirit, our students, faculty and staff boldly stepped out in front of the crisis to truly embody the nursing school’s slogan: “Nurse Leaders Begin Here.”

Today, in honor of International Nurses Day, I want to recognize a few of these valuable contributions from the hearts and minds of our School of Nursing.

  • When PPE for medical professionals was scarce, assistant professor Rhigel (Jay) Tan designed and created face shields, using easily obtainable materials like foam pipe insulation and overhead projector sheets. His sustainable, cost-effective shields were distributed to more than 700 frontline medical workers. Tan designed and created more than 200 cloth masks for non-patient contact in hospitals. Tan also performed mental health counseling to help frontline health care workers overseas cope with stress of the pandemic.
  • Nursing student and graduating senior Iris Martinez and social work student Kacey Kim made and donated 114 sanitation kits for the homeless, proving social distancing doesn’t mean you have to distance yourself from helping others.
  • Nursing Dean Angela Amar actively engaged in a broad campaign to educate the community about the safety measures being implemented in medical offices to encourage Nevadans to continue to see their health care providers during the pandemic.
  • Professor Susan VanBeuge is helping expand the workforce of health care professionals as part of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s volunteer Battle Born Medical Corps.
  • Faculty and administrators joined colleagues at University Medical Center to perform temperature screenings as patients and visitors arrived.
  • JoAnn Rupiper and Debra Fox, both doctoral students, worked with the State of Nevada on vaccine distribution and access-related procedures as established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • UNLV nursing students are assisting on the frontlines of NSHE’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, helping to administer the more than 120,000 doses to date at the Student Union vaccination site.
  • Gigi Guizado de Nathan and Jennifer Vanderlaan are evolving patient care to be more equitable among underserved populations. Guizado de Nathan, a standardized patient coordinator, is creating programs at the Clinical Simulation Center that will prepare future frontline providers to care for everyone, regardless of nationality, without seeing language as a barrier. Vanderlaan, an assistant professor, has conducted research during the pandemic that revealed that integrating telemedicine into routine health care can help increase prenatal care among medically underserved populations and reduce inequities and disparities.

Join me today in thanking our students and the faculty and staff preparing them to be professionals who possess awareness, compassion, and skill that makes health care equitable and accessible to the diverse population of Nevada today and beyond.

A Message from Dean Angela Amar

Happy Nurses Week! After the year that nurses have had, it’s great to have time to celebrate nursing. As the most trusted professional in the United States for over 10 years, nurses were a big part in combatting the pandemic. Nursing students had a front-row seat to the response to the most important healthcare challenge of our lifetimes. Applications to nursing school soared and our young citizens lived through the pandemic. Clearly the value of nurses was seen throughout our community.

At the UNLV School of Nursing, our mission is to prepare nurse clinicians, practitioners, scientists, and educators to respond to the health needs of the citizens of Nevada. With over 85% of our graduates remaining in Nevada, many in southern Nevada, our alumni pay crucial roles in healthcare.

In response to a need for more nurses, we increased the enrollment in our Bachelor of Science in Nursing program by 40%. As the pool of qualified applicants increases, we will once again be charged with increasing the number of students we admit. In response to a health provider shortage, we are increasing the enrollment to our Family Nurse Practitioner program and starting a Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program.

We are also working to increase enrollment in our master’s and doctoral degree programs in nursing education. We want to have more faculty available so that our area nursing schools can accept more of our qualified applicants.

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