December 29, 2004


MSU Nursing Student Shaunti Lackey with patient Curley Denning at Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Photo by Tara Roth Burkhalter.
MSU News Service -- Carol Flaherty

There are eight new nurses in the Kalispell/Whitefish area. Their graduation from the Montana State University - Bozeman nursing program this December heralds the first fruits of the upper-division nursing program begun here in January 2003.

MSU's upper division nurse education in cooperation with Flathead Valley Community College "was a blessing," said Lynette Gobel-Daley.

"I have a son who was in junior high at the time (I enrolled) and I didn't want to uproot him. It was a blessing that I didn't have to uproot him. That was my major concern," said the Whitefish resident.

For Annetta Bean, it was the only way she could accomplish her goals.

"My husband's work is here and I have a job at the hospital. We have a home here in Kalispell," Bean said. "It would have been too difficult to move away. I was a high school drop-out, and having the program in Kalispell has made it possible for me to accomplish my goals. This May in Bozeman will be my first graduation. It is a big thing for me."

Bachelor's degree nursing education in Montana is a decentralized system with MSU-Bozeman at the hub, offering in-person and distance-delivered classes in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Missoula and Kalispell. Though nursing education at MSU has been in place since 1937, upper division clinical experiences were limited to Billings, Missoula and Great Falls until Bean and Gobel-Daley's class. They have had rotations at Kalispell Regional Medical Center and North Valley Hospital.

"I can't emphasize enough how wonderful the nurses at both hospitals have been," added Gobel-Daley. She said her father is in medicine and her friend is a nurse. Between the stories the two told, she thought she would enjoy nursing, and now says she is certain she will.

The Kalispell-based upper division means the MSU baccalaureate nursing program will be able to graduate more nurses and have many of them find jobs in-state.

This win-win situation wouldn't have been possible without the help of the hospitals. Financially, both Kalispell Regional Medical Center and North Valley Hospital helped with some expenses of the distance-learning part of the program. And medical staff at both facilities took extra time to help nursing students.

It takes an exceptional student to be accepted into the nursing program. In fact, for the 2004-2005 school-year, 410 people applied for the 168 student slots available.

"This partnership between Flathead Valley Community College, MSU-Bozeman and our valley hospitals has provided an opportunity for community members to obtain a nursing degree without leaving home. It also increases access to health care for all valley residents," said Jane Karas, president of FVCC. The Flathead Valley nursing program is coordinated through MSU-Bozeman nursing program's Missoula campus, which is directed by Jean Shreffler-Grant.

Sue Justis, chair of the Division of Allied Health at FVCC, said the program "has brought hope to those students who cannot leave the Flathead Valley and desperately want to pursue nursing careers."

Contact: Jean Shreffler-Grant (406) 243-2540 Elizabeth Nichols (406) 994-3784, Jane Karas, FVCC, (406) 756-3801