Caring for the Community: Creating Nurses to Serve the San Joaquin Valley

“How will you ensure your graduates stay in the San Joaquin Valley?” I was recently asked this question by the California Board of Registered Nursing (CA BRN) as I sat before them asking for preliminary approval of a proposed nursing program, a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The BSN will be the next step along the path that started with helping RNs attain their bachelor’s degree in the RN-to-BSN program, then offering nurses with a BSN advanced training as nurse practitioners in the MSN/FNP program. This new program will help non-nurses enter the profession to which they feel called.

“I can’t promise they’ll stay,” I answered honestly, “but what I can tell you is that the San Joaquin Valley is an area rich in heritage and steeped in tradition. It has a way of enticing people to stay, even those who never intended to settle here.”

The answer seemed to satisfy them, but I could have gone on to add that a commitment to service—to the patients we care for, to one another as a body of nurses and to our community—underpins every aspect of our curriculum at Fresno Pacific University. I could have continued by talking about several recent RN-to-BSN graduates who have moved on from hospital nursing to serve their communities as public health nurses after completing hours in the public health practicum—students like Mee Yang-Vu (BSN ’16) or Jennifer Richardson (BSN ’19). I could have described how Mayra Negrete (MSN ’19) plans after graduation to offer primary care to the local community in which she was raised. I could have told my own story of joining the Navy with a desire to see the world yet eventually coming back to settle because there is something special about the San Joaquin Valley.

And it turns out that our Valley, like so many other areas, is facing a nursing shortage where the need is predicted to hit close to 10,000 nurses by 2030. When FPU’s four-year BSN is ready to launch, we hope to fill some of that gap, and program approval is moving along steadily. Our feasibility study was approved at the state level last month, and next steps include working together to finalize curriculum, identify the right mix of faculty, design clinical schedules and seek full approval from the CA BRN.

Because of the mission and vision of FPU, we know our nurses will continue to bring a unique perspective to the health care team and our new graduates will have the knowledge, skills and values to provide excellent care to the people who live and work here. We pray that God continues to open the doors needed to welcome our first class and that those graduates go on to serve the health needs of this beautiful community.