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She describes herself as being “passionate about nursing and committed to helping the new School of Nursing be the best we can be. I am a person who thinks outside the box and I like people to take a little risk from time to time and to be brave about change.”

And France, who is not short on spunk, has her mind set to make MSU’s nursing program the best in the area. She said that while the current curriculum is strong and students are competent when they graduate, she hopes to update the cutting edge BSN curriculum to produce students with “more experience in things like health care policy, system and leadership, and organization in nursing.”

Nursing programs are typically four to six semesters, France said. At MSU, however, freshmen already begin taking nursing courses during their second semester, making it a seven-semester program. “We are not changing this, but we will strengthen the clinical component. Students will have 1,035 clinical hours when they graduate, making them strong in acute care settings and community health centers,” she stated.

Another aspect France hopes to heighten in MSU’s School of Nursing is its cultural diversity. “We are rich in diversity on our three campuses, Beckley, Martinsburg and Orlando, so that diversity has become one of the hallmarks of the new curriculum. Upon graduation, all students will be culturally competent.”

France expects the new BSN curriculum to produce graduates who are certified in end of life and palliative care. “Understanding palliative care is not just about hospice work, but about working in intensive care units where people die unexpectedly. Our students will be the nurse there to help the other nurses, families and patients cope with the situation. They are going to be more comfortable in those kinds of situations than most graduates,” she said.

In addition, “one of the key things we are adding is the concept of healing and caring as a science and an art. I have a very strong background in healing, and we have integrated that into our curriculum. That is one of the things that our graduates will take with them — nurse to nurse, nurse to patient and nurse to family — healing and care,” she said.

“We know that this will meet a need. The university has committed resources to the School of Nursing so we can reach people who want a quality education, but live too far from campus or have children. We are putting all the necessary steps in place to get approvals so we can start offering courses online. The university is committed to being more accessible, user friendly, to reach more people and still offer a quality education,” she said.

In addition to the curriculum changes, France hopes to add a doctoral program soon. She hopes that by 2012 MSU will begin to offer doctoral degrees in nursing, and she confirmed the school is already working on devising the advanced curriculum.

Being dean of any school has challenges, especially to be a dean with three campuses spread across the eastern United States. France feels she is ready and committed to working intimately with each of MSU’s campuses to create one fluid School of Nursing.

“I am beginning now to make rounds to see students at all three locations and visit the faculty. We have one program, but many entry points, depending on where students are in their lives,” she explained. She will facilitate conference calls and web meetings and will travel “to break down the silos and make sure we are unified. Our goal is to be connected to our communities and be connected to each other.