Faculty at the school of nursing at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C, aren’t used to lots of checks rolling in from generous donors. But that began to change in 2007, when the nursing school received a Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to prepare nursing students to improve the quality and safety of health care systems upon graduation.
The grant gave QSEN project director Tara Hulsey, Ph.D., R.N., C.N.E., the leverage to request—and receive—$150,000 last year to renovate the nursing school’s skills laboratory and purchase a state-of-the-art patient simulator. The simulator, designed by Meti and called the iStan, is a wireless, electronic mannequin that enables students to build expertise and critical thinking skills through experiential learning.
The initial grant is the kind of gift that has kept on giving. After expanding the simulation laboratory, Hulsey, dean of the university’s nursing school, signed a $450,000 contract with two area hospitals that agreed to fund a full-time simulation faculty member in the nursing department for three years in exchange for use of the simulation lab and slots for five of their associate-degree nurses to earn bachelor’s degrees. The new nurse faculty member devotes time to designing and coordinating simulation activities for students and faculty, and the hospitals use the lab as an opportunity for working nurses to continue their education. It’s a win-win for all involved, Hulsey says.
Those initial grants may be just the tip of the fundraising iceberg, Hulsey says. She has submitted two proposals—one to a private business entity and another to a federal agency—for a combined $700,000 in new funding for the nursing school. And she hopes more support will come in the future; if it does, she plans to use the money to purchase simulators of children and babies so students can practice pediatric and neonatal nursing.
Hulsey attributes her fundraising successes to the initial QSEN grant, which enabled her to purchase the simulator, modernize the simulation laboratory and attract donors. “You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone to say they don’t want high quality and safety in their nursing care,” she says. “People feel good about doing anything they can to increase that.”
The influx of cash is a new experience for the small school. With only nine full-time faculty and 98 enrolled bachelor’s degree students, the school cannot afford to hire a dedicated staff member to raise money or carve out a separate fundraising budget. That is still the case, but Hulsey now has the simulation laboratory to help draw donors.
The simulator has brought more than money to the school. Charleston Southern University now boasts the best nursing simulation technology in the area and is integrating cutting-edge simulation activities into its nursing curriculum. That, Hulsey says, helps the school recruit top-flight students and keeps current students and faculty interested and engaged in their coursework. “QSEN has been included in our strategic plans for the school of nursing,” she says. “It’s made a tremendous difference.”