The BSN program will admit its first 40 to 50 students this August as the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing prepares to sunset its Associate of Science in Nursing Program in December 2015.
In the 120-credit program, students will take at least four classes (27 credits) devoted to mental health concepts. Topics of study will include treatment, mental health-related disabilities and discrimination, violence, abuse, suicide, prevention and cures, and rewards of working in mental health nursing.
"Through this curriculum we want to make sure we break down the stigma of working in this field, and we're coining it as 'stigma inoculation,'" said Kelly Dries, dean of the College of Nursing.
Additionally, tenets of mental health care will be incorporated into all courses so nursing students learn how to better treat patients with mental health issues in all medical settings.
"They're seen at any hospital (and) any clinic, and so our graduates will be prepared wherever they work to meet the needs of this population," said Dries, who cited the National Institute of Mental Health on the prevalence of mental health disorders. Approximately 26 percent of American adults are afflicted each year.
The college aims to teach students to care for those impacted by mental health issues by "looking at (each) person as a whole," said Lori Stutte, chair of the new program.
The program's mental health component is supported by a $25,000 grant from the Faye McBeath Foundation, which in turn supports the foundation's Nursing's Voice Initiative, a collaborative designed to transform mental health services.
The mental health strand also falls in line with Cardinal Stritch's Franciscan values, Dries said.
"We feel that we have a responsibility essentially to ensure our graduates are well-educated about mental illness and can serve these individuals and families in a very caring and compassionate way," she said.