Q&A with Developing a College of Nursing and Health Sciences co-chairs Mario Ortiz and Gale Spencer

In 2020, the Decker School of Nursing will move to a 90,000-square-foot building in a new, 8-acre Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, N.Y., joining the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and healthcare-based, high-tech businesses.
In 2020, the Decker School of Nursing will move to a 90,000-square-foot building in a new, 8-acre Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, N.Y., joining the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and healthcare-based, high-tech businesses.
In 2020, the Decker School of Nursing will move to a 90,000-square-foot building in a new, 8-acre Health Sciences Campus in Johnson City, N.Y., joining the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and healthcare-based, high-tech businesses.

BingUNews, Binghamton University’s main news and information center, sat down with the co-chairs of the Developing a College of Nursing and Health Sciences initiative, which is one of the four Road Map Renewal University Initiatives. Here’s an update of the project’s status:

Developing a College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Moving the Decker School of Nursing to Johnson City near the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and UHS Wilson Medical Center creates an opportunity to expand the curricular offerings of the school into new, allied health graduate programs. This will significantly change the nature of the Decker School and truly make it a College of Health Sciences.

Co-chairs: Mario Ortiz, dean of the Decker School of Nursing, and Gale Spencer, Decker Chair in Community Health Nursing and distinguished teaching professor

Project manager: Michael McGoff, senior vice provost and chief financial officer

What does an expansion of the Decker School of Nursing mean for Binghamton University?

Mario Ortiz: I think that it moves us to become one of the largest endeavors the University has taken on since the creation of the Watson School and moves us from nursing and pharmacy to eventually being a true Health Sciences Campus that also moves our research to another level.

Gale Spencer: The way the building is coming to fruition is going to make interprofessional education really come into its own. We’ll be sharing simulation floors, which will certainly encourage collaborative research between nursing, pharmacy and OT, PT, audiology and speech. We are also working on a senior citizen’s clinic that will have its own building.

MO: What’s unique about us is that we’re already so linked with the community and how we provide education to our students. This makes it even more solid. We’re considered a University with a non-medical center. I’ve been quite impressed with the people here and the first question the agencies asked is, ‘If we go down this road, what can the University do for them?’ We want to educate and help serve the community at the same time. We have a whole list of things we can do together.

Why now?

MO: It will allow us to also be at the national and international levels for funding for healthcare research For us to apply as a school of nursing doesn’t carry same weight as with other disciplines.

Plus, the momentum is right now. If I don’t get things moving in the first one to three years, people will say, ‘What took you so long?’ Having a physical land space can demark us as a true Health Sciences Campus and is a major marker that we’re serious. And there are other ideas out there. Once we get the therapies going and directors on board, we’ll probably be looking at what else we should be considering.

GS: The National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR) is very hospital-based oriented, making it much harder to get a large grant without a hospital, but with different disciplines, we will be able to make proposals to the National Institutes of Health and have a leg up.

What is the current status of the initiative?

MO: We have approval to hire program directors for all of the therapy programs: occupational (OT), physical (PT), speech and audiology. That’s happening in the spring. We’ll run those national searches with a broad reach. Once they are on board in late spring, we will come up with a curriculum model to put through the process and when the directors start they can tinker with it. I don’t want them to come with nothing done but with something they can move forward with. The nice thing about OT and PT, is you do it in a logical way. The State Education Department and national accreditation occur together, once approvals have moved off campus and through the State University of New York.

By the time we’re moving to Johnson City in 2020, we want to be recruiting or starting our first cohort for speech and OT. Then after we’ve moved, in 2021 or 2022, we’ll enroll our first cohort in PT and audiology because those are clinical doctorates and we’re not the first in the SUNY system to offer them.

GS: It’s like the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which took a lot longer, but now we have that model established, so these will go more quickly.

MO: It’s an aggressive and tight timeline because we know things happen and I don’t like to waste time! And it feels real to me now because I’ve done it before. I know what the outcome is, but the process changes as things change. I don’t think people understand what the lift is going to be to get this going. It’s not just me.

GS: Everyone is, like, ‘Wow! I’m really impressed!’ It’s exciting and the school is going somewhere. We’re really doing a good job with the younger faculty who are excited about where things are going and the ability to work with other disciplines. I have a love for the campus, so it’s hard to think of not being on the main campus, but to see the collaborative nature between the disciplines is so exciting and will give us a broader way of doing publications and research. That will be good.

What issues might you face as the school expands?

GS: One of our major concerns moving forward is that we will have meet is clinical placements. We’ll have two to three times the number of students who will be doing rotations at the same time.

MO: We would really prefer three times as many, but our partners are also trying to accommodate other schools.

Also, PT and OT accept only so many programs a year to accredit, so if we miss the fall, OT will be complicated because by 2027, all OT entry programs will need to be at the doctoral level. Right now, New York state only recognizes the master’s, so we have to come up with a plan to transition and to get on that cycle. I want us to move forward so the faster we can get on a list for them to come to a visit, the faster we can move forward. Audiology has lots to it, but it’s not as complicated and the facilities will be in place.

GS: Our consultants will stay with us through accreditation and will guide us along the way. They know all of the pitfalls.

MO: With these four programs, the big picture is moving the same way as pharmacy and we’ll create a PhD in health sciences.

What about the name change for the school?

MO: I spoke about it when I came in for my interview and within Decker first. There was concern about nursing getting buried, hence we’re keeping nursing in the name and it will be the College of Nursing and Health Sciences; this provides a great “naming” opportunity for a donor(s). The shift to a new college has to happen when we begin advertising, so upon our first hire or developed program, we would start using it, after campus approval processes. We can send a formal letter to the Office of Professional Education alerting them.

Posted in: Campus News, Decker