UofL began to educate nurses in 1974-75 when it offered a two-year associate degree program. By the decade’s end, nursing was its own school and it offered a Bachelor of Science degree for registered nurses as well as a master’s degree program to, among other things, prepare nurse practitioners to help deliver primary and specialty care.

In recent years, the school has begun the only distance education nursing program in Kentucky, has partnered with Owensboro (Ky.) Medical Health Systems to provide nursing education to that region, and has created accelerated programs to fast-track people into a field that faces a shortage of workers.

In 2005, the School of Nursing started to tackle the nurse shortage from another angle when it began a PhD program to educate nursing faculty.

Nursing schools across the country turn away qualified undergraduate nursing applicants each year because of the nursing faculty shortage, Hern said. In its short existence, the doctoral program has had three graduates, and another 23 students are working on their degrees.

Research also is a critical component of the school’s educational activities. Faculty collaborate with their colleagues in medicine, public health, engineering, education and social work. They study, among other things, nursing interventions in such areas as diabetes management, obesity, hypertension, depression and oncology care.

Resarch participation doesn’t stop at the faculty level. Both undergraduate and graduate student participation in research also is a school goal, and many students work on faculty research and present posters at professional meetings.

Given the school’s record of the past 35 years, Hern said she confident about the next 35 years, emphasizing the desire to imagine new ways to deliver nursing education to the state of Kentucky.