Perhaps the most fundamental challenge confronting nurse educators has to do with the way we conceive of excellence and the vision to which we aspire. At Trinitas School of Nursing, that vision of excellence is focused on the creation of learning environments that promote the learning and professional development of our multicultural student population. Our School is a microcosm of the world and we pride ourselves in offering the opportunity to students who have the desire and the potential to succeed in a rigorous nursing program. Our student population is 74 % minorities with a wide variety of educational backgrounds from a GED high school diploma to master’s degree. Our philosophy has allowed many aspiring nursing students to succeed despite the many barriers that confronted them. But because of the many tools and resources that are made available to them to increase their chances of success, we believe that the School does an excellent job of preparing those who have the capabilities, motivation, and determination to pursue their dreams to become a nurse.
Let us share with you our journey toward this vision of excellence. The origin of the school dates to 1891 when it was known as Elizabeth General Training School. It has had several name changes since then. Its current name came from the merger of two hospitals in Elizabeth-St. Elizabeth Hospital and Elizabeth General Medical Center-into one entity, Trinitas Hospital, in 2000. The School received its first National League for Nursing (NLN) accreditation in 1959 and has maintained it since that time. With the formation of the Cooperative Nursing Program in 1971 with Union County College which allows the students to receive an Associate in Science along with the Diploma in Nursing, the School made a commitment to serve educationally disadvantaged students, the non-traditional, and those seeking a second career and/or career mobility. By the mid-1970’s, the School opened the country’s first full-time evening division in a diploma program, enrolling many students who previously would not have been able to pursue nursing as a career.
To further serve more non-traditional students, especially the more mature ones seeking a second career, the School launched an innovative weekend division in 1987. This division was a first of its kind in New Jersey, if not the whole country. This program allowed students to fulfill their dreams of becoming a nurse while maintaining full-time employment and seeing to the needs of their families during the week. The School now offers day, evening, weekend study options on a full or part-time basis. In addition, a career ladder program was available to licensed practical nurses (LPN) who wanted to advance to registered nurse status.
The last decade of the century brought a new challenge to faculty. With our minority enrollment increasing, we needed to make sure that we put in place resources to help these students succeed. As faculty, we were very cognizant of the fact that minority nurses with baccalaureate and higher degree competencies would be needed to solve the complex health maintenance and prevention issues that our community would be faced with in the future. To encourage and support the educational mobility of our graduates, the School entered into a partnership with Kean University under a grant funded project titled Transcultural Leadership Continuum (TLC) from 1992-1996. Not only were our graduates able to pursue their BSN at Kean, they were able to move seamlessly to the MSN program as a benefit of this TLC project. Many of our graduates continue to take advantage of this seamless articulation. In 2004, we partnered with the College of Saint Elizabeth, now called St. Elizabeth University, to offer an onsite Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The first cohort graduated in May 2007. Similarly, an onsite Master of Science in nursing education began in September 2007. A graduate wrote, “Having the opportunity to take classes down the block from my job and in a familiar place has really made a difference in my decision to continue my education and get my BSN.” As the years progressed, our academic partners have increased to include Drexel University and Thomas Edison State University.
Historically, our School has served the underrepresented minority populations of the City of Elizabeth and Union County. There is now a national call for the increase of minorities in health education professions due to the changing demographics of the United States. We can say with conviction that we are pioneers in this movement. This was how and why the faculty decided to apply for the NLN excellence designation. For the past 37 years our School has been “creating and sustaining environments that enhance student learning and professional development.” Because we value our students’ diversity and the richness of their past, and we believe in their capacity to rise to the demands and rigor of nursing education, we are committed to continue to provide them with an educational environment that will ensure their future success as professional nurses.
In April 2007, Trinitas School of Nursing faculty achieved a national milestone by becoming the first faculty in the U.S. to have all eligible members earn the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential. This certification validates faculty’s commitment to our vision of excellence. This continues to be a goal of the program as faculty transitions occur.
On September 20, 2008 at the NLN Education Summit in San Antonio, TX, former Dean Marybeth Lebreck Kelley, MSN, MEd, RN, CNE, ANEF, together with 13 faculty members, were presented with the award designating the School as an NLN Center of Excellence in Nursing Education 2008-2011. Each year since 2004, the NLN has invited nursing schools to apply for the designation of a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education (COE) based on their ability to demonstrate sustained excellence in faculty development, nursing education research, or student learning. There are currently 17 schools in the U.S. that hold this designation. Trinitas was the first school in New Jersey to receive this award and the first Cooperative Nursing Program in the nation to receive this award. Dr. Beverly Malone, Chief Executive Officer of the NLN, stated that her organization is “proud to recognize those schools whose faculty is doing outstanding work that sets them apart from others.” Dr. Malone further stated that the COE program is a way “to recognize schools that have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and invested resources over a sustained period of time to distinguish themselves in a specific area related to nursing education. It is an honor to count Trinitas School of Nursing among the outstanding group of recipients of this designation.”
In September 2011, the School was re-designated as NLN Center of Excellence 2011–2015. This four-year re-designation is in recognition of the School’s success in sustaining its efforts to maintain excellence through a series of long-range strategic plans. A third re-designation as a Center for Excellence was awarded by the NLN for the period 2015-2020. On August 13, 2020, under the leadership of Dean Roseminda N. Santee, DNP, MA, RN, CNEA, CNE, ANEF, Trinitas School of Nursing achieved its fourth continuous designation as a National League for Nursing Center of Excellence in Nursing Education for the period 2020-2024.