St. Anselm College to unveil Jean School of Nursing and Health Sciences in 2025



Published: 06-10-2024 3:55 PM

In 1953, St. Anselm’s College, a liberal arts college for men founded by Benedictine monks in 1889, broke with 64 years of tradition by establishing the first four-year nursing program for high school graduates in New Hampshire and enrolling women to pursue it. More than 70 years and 4,000 graduates later, the college has earned a place among the premier nursing schools in New Hampshire and New England.

Last year, the college invested in expanding and enriching its legacy with construction of the Jean School of Nursing and Health Sciences, a 45,000-square-foot home to nursing, public health and health science students. The building, scheduled to be completed next year at a cost of some $40 million, will include an 11,000-square-foot simulation laboratory, classrooms, auditorium and office spaces with room to house the undergraduate programs and continuing nursing education program as well as future graduate and certificate programs. The project was undertaken thanks to generous donations from the Jean and Grappone families and a federal grant.

At the same time, Diane Uzarski, whose career in nursing and public health spans more than three decades and includes practical, academic, research and administrative experience, was named inaugural dean of the new school. A graduate of Iona College, Uzarski earned her master’s of public health at the University of California, Berkeley and doctor of nursing practice at Duke University. Before coming to St. Anselm’s, she spent 20 years at Duke in teaching, research and administration, including five years as chief of staff to the dean of the School of Nursing.

“With a dynamic career in nursing, public health and research at a top-tier university, Dr. Uzarski brings the skill and experience we were seeking to help grow our exceptional nursing program,” said Joseph A. Favazza, president of the college, in announcing her appointment.

Uzarski said the new facility will position the college to tackle the nursing shortage, which dogged the health care industry before the pandemic and was exacerbated by it. She estimated that, with 20 of every 100 nursing positions vacant, New Hampshire is among the 10 states where the shortage is most severe. The impact on the quality of care, she said, has been greatest in the medically underserved areas of the state.

Meanwhile, demand for health care services is rising as the “Baby Boom” generation, the largest in American history, ages and chronic diseases become more prevalent. Uzarski said that aging also weighs on the nursing profession where the median age of nurses has reached 46. “More and more nurses are aging out of the workforce,” she said. The challenge is compounded, she noted, by a parallel shortage of nursing educators.

The opening of the Jean School will bring programs operating in silos under one roof while providing capacity to expand enrollment in its nursing programs from about 500 to 800 and to offer graduate nursing degrees. In 2022, the college began offering a B.S. in community and public health, a collaboration between the nursing, biology, psychology and sociology departments, focused on preventing disease through public policies to enhance the health of communities.

Uzarski said the immediate priority is the recruitment of students and retention of faculty. Nursing, she said, is among the higher paid professions, with the salary of RNs in New Hampshire ranging between $60,000 and $100,000 depending on experience, with the average falling close to $80,000. “Nursing is a rewarding and attractive career,” she remarked, “with the opportunity to engage and serve with a rich mix of people.”

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Uzarski said that, while women nurses work alongside medics and corpsmen in the armed services, men represent less than 15% of practicing nurses and nursing students — a significant pool of untapped talent. “I would love to see more men in nursing,” she said. “Because nursing is predominately white and female, men can often experience additional stress and isolation when pursuing nursing education,” she added. “This is more pronounced with men of color as well. I will be implementing several strategies to reduce the stress felt by our male students in the coming year,” she said.

The college, Uzarski said, has earned an enviable reputation in part because its alumni hold high positions in the nursing profession and health care industry. The National Council on Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which administers the examination required of nursing graduates to practice, reports that in 2023 St. Anselm’s students posted a pass rate of 97.6%, compared to the national average of 88%.

Uzarski also stressed the college’s  commitment to liberal arts education in the humanistic tradition of the Benedictines, which she said “offered nurses a perspective that enables them to relate to the whole patient.”

While recognizing the challenge, Uzarski said “the future is bright.”

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