For 50 years, Lincoln University’s nursing school has produced outstanding nurses in our community.
photos provided by Lincoln University
In the fall of 1969, Lincoln University’s first-ever nursing students were welcomed to the school by Helen L. Monroe. Monroe, Lincoln’s first director of nursing education, was recruited from Florida to work with Jefferson City area hospital officials to create a nursing program on the Lincoln University campus. Fifty years later, it is Dr. Ann McSwain, School of Nursing dean, who continues to welcome 30 new students into Lincoln’s nursing program each and every semester.
“Sometimes I feel like this is the best kept secret on campus — and maybe in our whole community,” says McSwain. “Lincoln University’s nursing students have great pass rates on their board exams. They do just as well as the graduates from other schools, schools that may have turned away some of the students that we embrace at Lincoln, so I’m really proud. The work that the faculty do to mold and make these nurses is just amazing. They put their heart and soul into this. It makes me really proud to be a part of it all.”
McSwain herself graduated from the Lincoln University School of Nursing in 1989. After serving as assistant and associate professor for a decade while wrapping up her 24-year career at St. Mary’s Hospital, McSwain took over as department head in 2014 and currently serves as the dean. The nursing program saw another change that year — switching from a two-year associate’s degree program to a four-year bachelor’s program.
“We are all committed to better patient care,” says McSwain. “We want to make sure students graduate and go into our community as nurses and that we’re OK with them taking care of us, so we take our jobs pretty seriously. We know the day is going to come when we’re going to need nurses ourselves, and we want to make sure our community is taken care of.”
Lincoln School of Nursing graduate Crystal Morris, now an assistant professor in the program, echoes McSwain’s passion for further establishing the program’s success. “I’m able to give my expertise and knowledge back that I learned from my instructors,” says Morris. “They made me a great nurse, and now I want my students to be exceptional nurses as well.”
As was the case 50 years ago, when local hospital officials partnered with Lincoln’s leaders to create the school of nursing, the program continues to be a community effort. At least 90 percent of graduates remain in the Jefferson City area as care providers.
“We grow our own. We support our community, and our community supports us and our program,” says McSwain. “That’s just Jefferson City. We take care of each other. They helped create us. We work together in this partnership, and we provide them with the dedicated, capable staff they need.”
To mark this milestone anniversary, nursing students past and present will be honored at Lincoln University’s Nurse’s Gala on Saturday, November 2, 2019. Patients and community partners will also be part of this important celebration at The Linc. “I don’t want to downplay this,” McSwain says. “This isn’t just a celebration for Lincoln University. This is a celebration for our whole community because that’s how this program came to be — through the community and partnerships that support the program.”
The Nurse’s Gala will also raise money to support current and future Lincoln University nursing students, many of whom have to work to support themselves or their families while paying for tuition. “Without Lincoln University, our students would be traveling elsewhere for school and not everyone would get into those programs. I hope this event helps our students understand how important this program is and how fortunate we are to have a nursing school like this here in our community.”
Also at the Nurse’s Gala will be program founder Helen Monroe’s family, including her granddaughter, Jefferson City resident Jackie Henry. “My brothers, Tyrone and Michael, and I are so excited and grateful to celebrate this amazing legacy that our grandmother began,” says Henry. “She was able to open up an avenue for others who shared her same passions to be able to pursue their dreams. Our grandmother believed we should all embrace our God-given talents. I think she really pushed her students to do just that.”
As a leader, McSwain says she draws a lot of strength and inspiration from Helen Monroe, knowing the obstacles Monroe faced creating this program in the late 1960s. Henry and her family couldn’t agree more about their grandmother’s legacy.
“Being a woman, and a woman of color, during that time was a challenge itself. But she didn’t let that get in the way of accomplishing her goal,” says Henry. “People on and off campus didn’t think the nursing program would develop, let alone still be operating 50 years later. That determination, resiliency, and passion is what stands the test of time and keeps programs 50 years strong.”