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OHIO’s nursing school ranked best in the state by Niche

Ohio University’s School of Nursing ranked first in the state for 2023 Best Colleges for Nursing in Ohio by Niche, a popular website that compiles data to inform students and families about  colleges and schools.

“We’re obviously very pleased with it. We work hard and we’ve been very outcome-driven,” said Char Miller, an associate professor and executive director of the School of Nursing.

In addition to ranking first in the state for its nursing program, Niche also ranked the program 17th in the nation. Niche determined its nursing ranking using a rigorous analysis of academic admissions, financial and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as reviews from students and alumni. To be included, schools must confer at least five bachelor’s degrees in the field annually or have the major represent at least 20% of all bachelor’s degrees conferred by the school.

OHIO’s nursing program has maintained a storied legacy in the state since its inception in 1968. The program moved to the College of Health Sciences in Professions in 2010 and graduated its first class of students from its traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 2013. Ever since then, the program has continuously left a large footprint in professional nursing in the state of Ohio.

This is evident in the high satisfaction rate among employers of who hire OHIO graduates, Miller said. She attributes it to the culture of professionalism among graduates, noting that an OHIO graduate is already a professionally experienced nurse on their first day on the job.

“They regularly tell us that Ohio University nurses are ready for entry to practice,” she said.

One factor that makes OHIO’s nursing program stand apart from other programs in the state is the program’s emphasis on hiring faculty with real-world nursing experience.

“Our faculty, by far and large have contemporary nursing practice experience,” said Miller, who is herself a longtime nurse.

The School of Nursing has continually looked towards the future of nursing and uses all tools and technologies at its disposal to train its nurses for any sort of situation that may arise. Currently, the school is expanding its use of virtual technology to train nurses in real-world scenarios that otherwise could not be experienced through a textbook.

“VR is a powerful tool in education. Not only can students observe and be coached through interactions, but they can also gain great insight into the lived experiences of people they are working with,” said John McCarthy, interim dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions. “There are many things about the nursing program I’m proud of, but their emphasis on advocating for their patients is a real strength of our program.”

One virtual reality simulation the nursing program has been using is “Destiny,” which simulates the experience of working with Appalachian health care patients and offers insight into regional values that can inform the ways in which practitioners can best provide care. During the simulation, a person putting on the virtual reality goggles will step into episodes in which the characters interact with their health care providers, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, as well as social workers and families.

Destiny, the title character of the simulation, is a female in her early 20s from Appalachia. She’s pregnant, not married, her parents are largely absent and she’s addicted to opioids. The simulation plays out like a movie, which starts with Destiny smoking a cigarette and heading to her first doctor appointment for the baby.

“We try to make sure that students who come out of our program at every level appreciate being a professional nurse and being an advocate speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Miller said.

Today nursing programs are offered on all five of OHIO’s regional campuses. In 2021 Athens-based nursing students received the highest pass rate among public universities in the state for first-time test takers of the NCLEX examination, a national examination for licensing of nurses in the United States.

Miller is enthusiastic about the profession, noting that the flexibility and satisfaction rivals just about any other profession.

“If you are thinking about being a nurse as a career, there has never been a greater demand for nurses,” she said. “It is a wonderful career; it has been very good to me and my colleagues.”

October 14, 2022
Macklin Caruso