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Springfield, MO

A Conversation With ... Anne Liners Brett

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Tell us about Cox College.
The college was started in 1907 as Burge School of Nursing. At that point, it was a hospital diploma school of nursing. It closed down for a little bit before World War II and reopened after World War II. So pretty much, we’ve been around for 104 years. We have 39 full-time nursing faculty and 10 health science faculty. We contract with Drury University for our general education courses, so we have a number of part-time adjunct faculty.

The school doesn’t just train nurses anymore. How has it changed?
We are much more than a nursing school. In the mid-1990s, the administration had the foresight to realize that nursing was changing, and nursing education … needed to move from a diploma, on-the-job training kind of model to an academic model. At that point, they made the move to an associate degree in nursing, which is a two-year degree to train (registered nurses). We changed the name in 2008 to Cox College, and we now have associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees in nursing for entry-level students. We have a master’s program in nursing, preparing nurse practitioners, (and) health science programs (which) include billing and coding … medical transcription, a dietetic internship program and an associate degree in radiography (that had been) a certificate in the health care system.

How has enrollment grown recently?
In 2007, we had 375 students enrolled, and for spring 2011, we have 688. We are on track for 725 for fall. The health sciences are growing, and in the nurse practitioner program, we initially had hoped to admit 12 in our first class. We admitted 28. Another area that’s really seeing huge growth is our accelerated bachelor’s degree, for students who have degrees in other fields and are here for a second degree. Two years ago, we admitted eight students a year. We now admit 40. … We probably have three to four applications for every (nursing student spot) that we have available. … In our radiography program, we have 24 spots for fall 2011 and 80 applicants.

Why has Cox College entered collaborative agreements with other local schools?
One of my firm beliefs is that you don’t go out and re-create the wheel. You try to partner, and you need to collaborate, especially because resources are limited. We looked at the population of students that we are not able to recruit at Cox College. We are not able to recruit the young student who wants a college life experience, because we don’t have dorms, athletics, intramurals or sororities, because that’s not our mission. So we’ve partnered with Evangel and Drury, and at both colleges, students can get two degrees in four years. Students can graduate with a bachelor’s in nursing and a bachelor’s in arts or science, based on what they choose as their second major. … They can live on the campuses. (Baptist Bible College) is a little different (because) graduates primarily go into missions work. They earn an associate degree in nursing (through) a weekend program.

What kinds of job opportunities exist for your graduates?
The job market is tighter than it’s been for a number of years. Students are still getting jobs, but they may not be getting their first choice. … Part of what’s happening across health care … is because of the economy, people who were working part time are now working full time because a spouse may have been laid off. And people aren’t retiring. There’s a huge cadre of baby boomers waiting for the economy to pick up so they can retire. … Of our last December and May graduates, about 95 percent have jobs at graduation.

Is the school exploring additional program expansions?
One of the programs we’re looking at is a master’s in occupational therapy. … Ozarks Technical Community College offers an occupational therapy assistant program, and we’re looking to take that two-year degree through to master’s level (for students) to become registered occupational therapists. Since we (added) the radiography programs, we have seven certificate programs – mammography, CT scans, MRIs – and (we want) to take the associate’s degree in radiography to a bachelor’s degree, and in that bachelor’s, they can specialize in one of what are now the certificate programs. We’re also looking at a bachelor’s degree in health leadership.
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