Baptist Health held a ceremony July 6 to officially announce the evolution and renaming of its nursing school, and unveil the school’s new signage.
On July 1, Baptist Health Schools Little Rock became Baptist Health College Little Rock and transformed from a diploma-granting institution to a degree-conferring college, a news release said.
“Today is a moment,” Judy Pile, the college’s chancellor and assistant vice president of education, said at the ceremony.
“Today, we’re moving from a school to a college. It’s taken years of discussion. We are moving forward and continuing to develop.”
At the ceremony, speakers included Pile, along with Baptist Health President and CEO Troy Wells and President Emeritus Russ Harrington.
Baptist Health graduated its first class of five nurses in 1921. Now, more than 800 students are enrolled, and more than 300 graduate annually.
Harrington said over the years he’s heard many physicians say that Baptist graduates make the best nurses. The expansion and renaming is “another step in the continued evolution of our program,” he said at the event.
Pile said while it’s difficult to predict how the health-care industry will change over the next five to 10 years, continued education in health innovation and technology will drive the next generation of professionals.
“We’re flexible in learning and open and ready to face and conquer whatever the future will bring,” she told the crowd of a several hundred students, faculty and community members.
“There are new ways to care for patients. I know we will be ready. There are things we’ve done for 95 years, and we’ll continue for the next 95 years.”
Pile said the partnerships with nine Arkansas colleges and universities — Arkansas Tech University, Harding University, Henderson State University, Ouachita Baptist University, Pulaski Technical College, Southern Arkansas University, University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock — are invaluable in student success, and will continue to deepen with Baptist’s transition to a college.
“We have a long legacy of attracting clinicians,” she said. “We want to pass on a passion for the profession.”
July 6 was the first day of class for freshman, the first class to enroll in the associate’s degree program, Pile said.
Students benefit from the transition, Pile said. The associate’s degree prepares students by providing them with a higher level of expertise in their field, and the program “furthers them along the path to a bachelor’s,” she told AMP after the ceremony.
Many of the state’s nursing students continue their education to earn a bachelor of science in nursing, and there’s a national trend for nursing schools to move away from diploma credentialing to awarding associate’s or bachelor’s degrees, a news release said.
Baptist’s college offers nine programs of study, including practical nursing and registered nursing, as well as seven allied-health fields: histotechnology, medical laboratory science, nuclear medicine technology, radiology, occupational therapy assistant, sleep technology and surgical technology. The college has been in its location at 11900 Colonel Glenn Road in Little Rock since 1989.