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Washington State University

History of the College of Nursing

In the mid-1960s, there were no four-year nursing programs in all of Eastern Washington. Nurses in the region were educated in diploma programs offered by area hospitals. Yet a visionary group of nurse leaders from Spokane knew the bachelor’s degree would become increasingly important in the profession. They proposed an innovative solution: to create a consortium baccalaureate nursing (BSN) program that would serve Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana. Called the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education (ICNE), the consortium was the first of its kind in the nation and included Eastern Washington State College (now Eastern Washington University), Fort Wright College of the Holy Names, Washington State University, and Whitworth College (now Whitworth University). ICNE became a successful model for consortium colleges and universities nationwide.

In the summer of 1969, the inaugural class of 37 BSN students entered the Carnegie Library Building for their first day of class. Attendance grew quickly and by 1973 there were more than 200 junior-level nurses. The increased attendance led to growing the BSN program and offering it statewide at sites in Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Wenatchee in the late ’70s.

The consortium moved to the Magnuson Nursing Building on Fort George Wright Drive in 1980 and soon after began offering a master of nursing program.

By 1990, WSU had advanced its technological capabilities and began offering a two-way television network where classes could be viewed by the college’s nursing sites outside of Spokane. These capabilities allowed ICNE to develop the state’s first RN-BSN program in Spokane, Vancouver, and Tri-Cities for registered nurses to continue their education while balancing careers and family obligations.

In 1999, the consortium formally became the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing and today is referred to as WSU College of Nursing.

In 2009, the college moved from the Magnuson building to the WSU Spokane Health Sciences campus, the first college to relocate here. The college continues to excel in nursing education, graduating competent, culturally aware, and prepared nurses. Degree offerings have shifted over time to reflect the healthcare delivery needs of the region, and current degree programs include BSN, RN-BSN, MN, MHPA, PhD and DNP, and graduate certificates.

Equally as important to the college’s history is the exponential growth of research being conducted by faculty and graduate students. Since 2005, the college has increased its research capacity by 400%. Research is focused on an array of subjects that affect families living in the Northwest and around the globe: chronic pain and opiate addiction, childhood obesity, and medication management. Other areas being investigated include simulation pedagogy, public health issues, behavioral health, environmental health, patient care transitions, addictions, and more.

Today the Washington State University College of Nursing educates more than 1,000 students annually working towards their bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. It conducts patient-focused research aimed at transforming and improving health care for all. The college is also a national leader in providing distance education and interdisciplinary learning opportunities using a hybrid of lecture, simulation, clinical, and online experiences to prepare future nurses.