Touro hosts ribbon cutting for new nursing program in Vallejo

Program aims to help meet California's rising demand for skilled nurses

By Tony Burchyns
Vallejo Times Herald @tonyburchyns on Twitter
Posted:   09/08/2014 07:17:47 PM PDT

Hoping to help meet California's rising demand for nurses, Touro University held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for its newly launched school of nursing in Vallejo.

Designed for working nurses to enhance their skills without leaving their jobs, the program launched in August with 32 students — many of whom work for area hospitals.

"Hospitals throughout the country demand and request that their nurses not only have two-year degrees, but four-year degrees," Touro University California Chief Executive Officer and Senior Provost Shelley Berkley said. "Touro University is satisfying that need by ensuring that we provide programing to enhance the abilities and capabilities of our practicing nurses throughout Northern California."

The 18-month program allows registered nurses to earn a master's degree in their field and clinical nurse leader certification.

Tailored for working professionals, about half the coursework is offered online with remaining courses offered one night per week and one Sunday per month at the school's new home at 1091 Azuar Drive.

"I can get my master's degree and still be close to the bedside, which is what really is the pull of this program," said Anne Niffienegger, a nurse for North Bay Medical Center in Fairfield. "I can still be there with my patients."

"We're coworkers and now we're classmates," added Amy Ciraulo, a nurse for the same hospital who helped spread the word about the program among her colleagues. "That's really cool that we can bring it all together like that."

It's estimated that the state will need an added 108,000 registered nurses by 2020, Touro officials said. Also, projections show Solano County will need more than 7,000 more registered nurses by 2018, not including those needed to replace retirees.

"It's really important to be doing this now," said Marilyn Hopkins, provost and chief operating officer for Touro University. "In California, 75 percent of nursing programs are delivered in community colleges. Yet there's a national goal that by 2020 at least 80 percent of R.N.'s should have a baccalaureate or a higher degree."

Hopkins added that in California only 50 percent of nurses are prepared at that level. "California must increase the number of baccalaureate and master's programs in nursing if it's going to prepare and adequate work force," she said.

Among those in attendance were Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis and county supervisors Erin Hannigan, Jim Spering and Linda Seifert. State Sen. Lois Wolk, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson and Assembly members Susan Bonilla, Mariko Yamada and Jim Fraizer were represented by staffers.

"Each ribbon cutting is an investment in our community," Davis said. "It's encouraging to see that more and more businesses are willing to invest, more and more institutions are expanding. Vallejo is on the upward move."

Ann Stoltz, the school's director, said the modest building – which Touro is leasing from Mare Island developer Lennar Mare Island — is "just the bones" of the new program. She added that the students are the "heart and soul" of the school.

"We are so excited and so pleased," Berkley added. "This will add so much to Touro University. It's a big program starting small, but I promise you, we will continue to grow and graduate nurses with enhanced skills that will be very much a part of the future of healthcare in this community."

Contact Tony Burchyns at 707-553-6831. 

Shelley Berkley at School of Nursing Ribbon Cutting

Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis, reflected in the glass on the left, listens to Touro University California CEO and Senior Provost Shelley Berkley speak about the newly launched School of Nursing during a ribbon cutting. (CHRIS RILEY—VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD)

School of Nursing Ribbon Cutting

Steven Kahler, left, and Wendy Kao, graduate students at Touro University California's Vallejo campus, look at historic photos on Monday inside the new School of Nursing building on Azuar Drive during a ribbon cutting ceremony. (CHRIS RILEY—VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD)