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WSU College of Nursing named a national Center of Excellence

Group photo of faculty and staff at the WSU College of Nursing, which has been named a Center of Excellence.
Group photo of faculty and staff at the WSU College of Nursing, which has been named a Center of Excellence.
Faculty and staff at the WSU College of Nursing.

The WSU College of Nursing has been named a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing, an honor given to only 15 schools and health care facilities nationwide in 2017.

The award recognizes the College of Nursing’s statewide programs, innovation, research, community outreach, and its commitment to diversity.

The National League for Nursing is a professional organization with 40,000 individual members and 1,200 institutional members. It provides professional development, testing services, research grants and public policy initiatives on nursing education and research.

Dean Joyce Griffin-Sobel
Dean and Professor Joyce Griffin-Sobel

“Expert faculty create expert nurses. The WSU College of Nursing has been producing the finest nurses in Washington for close to 50 years,” said Dean and Professor Joyce Griffin-Sobel, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN. “Being named a Center of Excellence, the only college in the Northwest to be honored in this manner, recognizes our innovative, learner-centered teaching, enhanced by a sophisticated simulation program for hands-on, experiential learning.”

The WSU College of Nursing graduates more nurses with bachelor’s degrees than any other university in the state, is a leader in education using simulation, and had research and grant funding of more than $7 million last year. By bringing a diverse student body into health care and serving disadvantaged communities, the College of Nursing helps WSU continue to fulfill its land-grant mission in a modern world.

Anne R. Bavier, PhD, RN, FAAN, and president of the National League for Nursing, notes that Centers of Excellence “help raise the bar for all nursing programs.”

The WSU College of Nursing was named a Center of Excellence for “Enhancing Student Learning and Professional Development,” one of four categories for which honors are awarded. Other nursing schools recognized in the same category include Rush University, Purdue University, Ball State University, and the University of Kansas.

Among the achievements highlighted in the College’s Center of Excellence application were:

  • The College has statewide reach, offering degrees on WSU campuses in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver, Washington, and at sites in Yakima and Walla Walla.
  • Since 2005, the College has increased its research capacity by 400 percent.
  • The student body is both ethnically and demographically diverse. From 2013-2016, the WSU College of Nursing’s undergraduate enrollment included 43 percent first-generation college students, and 30 percent non-white. Over the past decade, the College tripled the number of under-represented minority students, rural, and first-generation students who received bachelor’s degrees in nursing.
  • The Program of Excellence in Clinical Performance and Simulation operates a state-of-the-art Simulation Lab that serves students from many WSU health-sciences programs. The College also trains community partners there, including the 141st Air National Guard, students from Spokane Community College, the Washington Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and the University of Washington’s MEDEX Physician Assistant program.
  • Students, under the guidance of College of Nursing faculty, have staffed first aid stations at sporting events, conducted children’s health and sports physical screenings, and offered free clinics for uninsured and undocumented people.

Dean Griffin-Sobel said of the honor of being named a Center of Excellence, “Our faculty ensure that our graduates, at the entry and advanced levels, are prepared to meet the health care needs of our citizens, to reduce the significant access problems that exist in our state, and to increase primary care practice. As a land grant institution, there is no higher calling.”

WSU College of Nursing family mourns the passing of one of its founders

Portrait of Betty Anderson

On Sunday, the WSU College of Nursing lost one of our founders and an influential figure in nursing in the Pacific Northwest, when Betty Anderson passed away at the age of 99.

Anderson was one of the remarkable nurse leaders whose vision and drive established the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education in 1968, and her legacy is the WSU College of Nursing.

She once said of the College of Nursing, “We were all pioneers back then. And they’re still pioneering today.”

Anderson was the Director of Nursing Service & Education at St. Luke’s Hospital in Spokane when she began discussions with others in the nursing profession about the need for additional nursing instruction in the region. At the time, there were no four-year nursing programs in Eastern Washington.

She was an early proponent of the intercollegiate model, and went personally to WSU in Pullman with Betty Harrington to enlist the support of then-President Glenn Terrell for a baccalaureate nursing program. She was also instrumental in expanding the College of Nursing’s statewide reach. 

Anderson was the truest definition of “nurse leader,” say people who worked with her – kind, caring, strong and principled.

Janet Holloway, WSU Associate Professor Emeritus, said of her friend and mentor, “Early on she modeled many of the nursing values and standards I would later incorporate into my own practice.” In the late 1960s, when Holloway was asked to join the faculty at the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education, “Betty mentored me in many aspects of my new role. I will forever be indebted to her for her assistance,” she said.

There will be no services at Anderson’s request, but Dean Joyce Griffin-Sobel of the WSU College of Nursing asks that we keep Anderson’s children, Erik and Signe, along with their families, and all who knew and respected Betty Anderson, in our thoughts today.

If you would like to make a gift in honor of Betty Anderson’s legacy please write a check to the WSU Foundation and note it’s for the Earl & Betty Anderson Nursing Scholarship. Checks can be mailed to WSU College of Nursing, PO Box 1495, Spokane, WA 99210, Attn: Development 443. Alternately, to make an online gift visit and type “Anderson” in the Search function in the middle of the page. Select the “Earl & Betty Anderson Nursing Scholarship” from the drop-down of funds that appears. Finally, you can reach Brooke Ledeboer, Development Director, with any inquiries at (509) 324-7202 or

Meet a preceptor: Kathryn Brault, ARNP

portrait of preceptor Kathryn Brault
portrait of preceptor Kathryn Brault
Kathryn Brault

Kathryn Brault loves her job, and that’s why she’s a preceptor for the WSU College of Nursing and other schools.

As a preceptor, she’s one of the many experienced practitioners who volunteer their time to instruct and supervise nursing students during clinical training. Brault is a Family Nurse Practitioner who runs a specialty clinic in the Tri-Cities for diabetes patients, and also precepts students at Grace Clinic, which provides free health care to people in need.

Why does she do it?

“Medicine in general is something we learn best by doing,” said Brault, who earned her RN-BSN and MN degrees from the WSU College of Nursing. She believes mentoring students helps her continue to hone her clinical skills, because “when you have to explain and teach something, you become more aware.”

Also, it’s important for practitioners to give back to the profession. “That’s what makes medicine good, that we all collaborate,” she said.

Nursing students appreciate the time Brault spends with them. Said one student, “Kathy has a great way of explaining information so it makes sense.”

Brault said her work as a volunteer preceptor is satisfying. “I love what I do, and I want other people to see how rewarding it can be.”

Visit our Preceptor Portal for information on being a WSU College of Nursing preceptor. 

Shelly McHugh gives back to WSU Nursing because ‘they helped me’

Portrait of College of Nursing donor Shelly McHugh
Portrait of College of Nursing donor Shelly McHugh
Shelly McHugh

Just a decade after Shelly McHugh graduated from what would become known as the WSU College of Nursing, she began a regular habit of donating to the school.

She’d begun planning her philanthropy even earlier, saying she told her husband before they got married, “Someday I’m going to be giving what I can to the WSU undergrad nursing school because they helped me.”

McHugh’s generosity is mostly directed toward undergraduate student scholarships, because that’s the only way she was able to attend WSU. She graduated from what was then called the Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education in 1977, with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Despite working summers and after school from the time she was 12, she didn’t have enough money saved to cover her college costs when she graduated from Marycliff High School in Spokane in 1973.  A counselor there, however, pointed the way to various undergraduate scholarships. McHugh could only afford a 10-meal-a-week plan while she lived on campus in Pullman, so she worked in the dining hall because the shifts came with a free meal.

She had a mission. “I’ve known from the age of 2 that I wanted to be a nurse,” she said.

After graduation, McHugh worked for 16 years at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane, leaving in 1993 when her husband’s job was transferred to Colorado. For nearly a dozen of those years, she was part of a tight-knit group in the hospital burn program. The nurses coordinated shifts to provide the greatest continuity of care to families, she said. “We made sure patients had no more than a maximum of five nurses so they and their families knew who they were dealing with, particularly with children or abuse cases. Those were very hard.”

She worked in a Denver hospital, then retired. That got boring, so she now works a couple days a week from home as a utilization review nurse case manager.

McHugh said she looks at her donations to the WSU College of Nursing as a way to return the favor of those benefactors who helped set her on the path to a rewarding career in nursing. “They gave me the support I needed at the time, and I just figured I’m paying it forward.”

Plus, she added, “There’s a little bit of enlightened self-interest – we are all going to need nurses to care for us at some point.”

WSU researchers recently presented at nursing conference in Dublin

Nightime shot of a bridge over the River Liffey in Dublin.
Nightime shot of a bridge over the River Liffey in Dublin.
The River Liffey near the Convention Centre Dublin in Ireland. Photo by Connie Nguyen-Truong.

WSU College of Nursing faculty and a doctoral student recently presented their research at the International Nursing Research Congress in Dublin, Ireland.

The 28th annual event was sponsored by Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing, and drew nearly 1,400 nurse researchers, students, clinicians and leaders.

The presentations of work by WSU College of Nursing faculty and student were:

Research Session: Transitions in the Care of the Older Adult
“Participatory Approach to Build Capacity: Nurse-led Research to Overcome Insufficient Mobility in Hospitalized Older Adults” by Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Gordana Dermody and Instructor Dr. Ruth A. Bryant

Research Session: Patient Education in Oncology Patients
“Feasibility of a Breast Health Education Intervention for Vietnamese-American Immigrant Women,” by Assistant Professor at WSU Vancouver Dr. Connie Kim Yen Nguyen-Truong and others.

Dr. Connie Nguyen-Truong standing in front of a Welcome to Dublin sign at the International Nursing Research Conference
Dr. Connie Nguyen-Truong, Assistant Professor in the WSU College of Nursing in Vancouver, presented research at the International Nursing Research Congress in Dublin in July.


Research Session: Smoking Cessation Interventions
“Tribal College Students’ Access to and Use of Mobile Communication and Technology for Health Information,” by Assistant Professor and Pre-licensure Program Director Dr. Jo Ann Walsh Dotson and and Assistant Professor IREACH Dr. Lonnie A. Nelson

Poster Presentation
“Professional Identity in the Lived Experience of Hospital Nurses,” by PhD candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant Tullamora T. Diede

Sigma Theta Tau International is a nonprofit whose mission is advancing population health and promoting the nursing profession. The honor society has more than 135,000 active members in more than 90 countries.
Dr. Nguyen-Truong said researchers who attended the International Nursing Research Congress made valuable connections for possible collaborations in research, and that personally, she forged stronger ties with her colleagues from the College of Nursing in Spokane.

Thank a Preceptor: Sue Neal, Battle Ground Healthcare

Portrait of Sue Neal, a preceptor for the College of Nursing at Battle Ground Healthcare
Portrait of Sue Neal, a preceptor for the College of Nursing at Battle Ground Healthcare
Sue Neal, Executive Director, Battle Ground Healthcare


Sue Neal wants student nurses to see how much community is involved in community health.

That’s why the Executive Director of Battle Ground Healthcare, a nonprofit, faith-based clinic near Vancouver, Washington, often takes nurses she’s precepting to meetings of committees and stakeholders.

“I like students to go to meetings so they get a feel for all of the different things going on in terms of providing care and services for populations,” said Neal, who’s been a WSU College of Nursing preceptor for four years. “I want them to get a big picture of what’s happening in the community, because that’s where nursing is really going.”

Neal mostly precepts RN-BSN students at Washington State University, though she has worked with a student getting her Master of Nursing degree. She serves as a preceptor one or two times a year.

The secret to a good preceptor experience is the match, she said. “It’s really taking a look at what the student’s background is, what their interests are, and letting them know about the experience you have available for them.”

She added, “I always find out what their objectives and expectations are, and work with them to help them meet their objectives. Giving them time and investing in the student is essential.”

While nursing preceptors are volunteers, Neal said that for her, it’s time well-spent.

“I love being a preceptor, and I’ve gotten great students. I just continually think wow, what great nurses are coming out of WSU.”

For information on becoming a preceptor for the WSU College of Nursing, visit the Preceptor Portal on our website

Actors play a role in health education as ‘standardized patients’

Mike Munoz sits on an exam table in the WSU College of Nursing's Simulation Lab.
Mike and Stacey Munoz, standardized patients for the WSU College of Nursing
Mike and Stacey Munoz, standardized patients for the WSU College of Nursing. Photo by Cori Kogan.

By Addy Hatch, WSU College of Nursing

As acting jobs go, this one’s not typical.

Rather than being handed the role of “ingenue” or “nosy neighbor,” people who are hired by the WSU College of Nursing might be asked to play “chest pain” or “depression,” or “degenerative joint disease.” They’re called standardized patients, or SPs, and they help teach nurses and other health-science students skills in communication and clinical treatment.

The WSU College of Nursing has had a standardized patient program as part of its Simulation Lab for three years, said Kevin Stevens, Director of the Center for Clinical Performance and Simulation.

“Most schools will use standardized patients for things they can’t do with a mannequin,” Stevens said, referring to the high-tech mannequins used in the Simulation Lab. For instance, unlike a mannequin, a standardized patient might pace the room, jump out of bed or interact aggressively – all scenarios that nursing students could face in their careers.

Standardized patients also give students feedback.

“Sometimes students don’t use good eye contact, or they’re looking down at a paper the whole time,” said Stacey Munoz, a standardized patient at the WSU College of Nursing and before that, in Arizona. “Sometimes they’ll tell a joke that doesn’t translate well.”

That’s the exception, however, said Mike Munoz, Stacey’s husband and a fellow standardized patient in Spokane. “I would say 99.9 percent of the time the good outweighs the bad. These students are being trained very well.”

The WSU College of Nursing launched its standardized patient program using actors hired through a Spokane talent agency. The pool of SPs has expanded to include non-actors like Mike and Stacey Munoz – people who have some interest in health sciences and want to help train the next generation of care providers. Mike Munoz had 35 years of experience with emergency medical services as a firefighter in Arizona, while Stacey Munoz worked at a health-sciences university there.

» More …

Sim Man visits Pullman for Athletic Training scenarios

Photo of Kevin Stevens, director of the Center for Clinical Performance and Simulation, talks to a group of Athletic Training students in Pullman.
Photo of Kevin Stevens, director of the Center for Clinical Performance and Simulation, talks to a group of Athletic Training students in Pullman on Aug. 1, 2017. Photo by Brandon Champman
Kevin Stevens, Director of the Center for Clinical Performance and Simulation at the WSU College of Nursing, took a wireless mannequin on the road to Pullman Tuesday to work with a group of Athletic Training students. Photo by Brandon Chapman


About 25 students in the WSU College of Education’s Athletic Training program got to know the College of Nursing’s Sim Man on Tuesday in Pullman.

Sim Man, a wireless, high-fidelity mannequin, traveled to Pullman for “patient-down” simulations with the Athletic Training students.

Kevin Stevens, Director of the Center for Clinical Performance and Simulation, and Laura Wintersteen-Arleth, a Senior Instructor in the College of Nursing, took the mannequin to Pullman and guided the students in groups of five through simulations in the intense heat.

“The idea was to give students practice on different scenarios with basic life support,” said Stevens, “having them identifying that the patient is having a code, then responding appropriately.” » More …

5 things to know about a DNP degree

Group photo of DNP students in Spokane
  1. It’s one of two routes to becoming a nurse practitioner, one of the highest-paid and most in-demand nursing specialties; the other route is to get a Master of Nursing degree. But the American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommends the DNP degree for nurses who want to work as nurse practitioners.
  2. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 2016 median pay for Nurse Practitioners was $107,460 per year, meaning half make more than that and half make less. The employment outlook is for 35 percent growth in the number of nurse practitioner jobs between 2014-24, and US News & World Report ranks it No. 2 on a list of The 100 Best Jobs.

    Group photo of DNP students in Spokane
    Doctor of Nursing Practice students who presented their final projects in Spokane on April 27, 2017.
  3. Who’s your doctor? The title “doctor” now means a lot of things: physician, pharmacist, physical therapist and nurse practitioner. In many states, including Washington, Idaho and Oregon, nurse practitioners can operate an independent practice where they diagnose and treat illness, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and initiate and manage treatments, including prescribing medications.
  4. Nurse practitioners are the backbone of primary care, especially in rural areas, so universities in the West and Midwest are more likely to offer a BSN-to-DNP degree track than those in more populated regions. The WSU College of Nursing has had a BSN-to-DNP program since 2012.
  5. DNPs use research and evidence to improve health care and patient outcomes. Among WSU College of Nursing DNP graduates last spring, for example, one launched a pilot project to get fibromyalgia patients to exercise more and to learn about their condition – treatments that had been proven through previous research to be effective. The pilot was successful, with 83 percent of patients increasing their aerobic exercise and all participants asking for it to be made permanent.

Applications for the DNP program open Aug. 1, to begin classes in the fall of 2018. For more information on the DNP programs offered at the WSU College of Nursing, visit » More …

Health clinics in Peru help students learn from each other

Four students stand in front of a rural clinic in Peru.
Group of WSU Students with a Coug flag in Peru
A group of WSU Health Sciences students in Peru in June 2017.

By Addy Hatch

The pharmacy student said she didn’t realize a nurse’s touch was such an important part of patient assessment.

The nursing student said she has greater appreciation for the intricacies of dosing and formulation in pharmacy.

This is interprofessional education: health sciences students learning together so they are better prepared to work in teams once they graduate, an approach that has been shown to improve patient care and outcomes. » More …