Almost exactly a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to Omaha, Nebraska. We were all still unsure of what that meant for our health and lives. No one could've predicted that work meetings would switch to video, all college classes would be online, bars and restaurants would be take-out only and necessities such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer would be virtually impossible to find.
Now, one year later, three vaccines have rolled out, and people are getting access. We've mastered the mask learning curve, hand sanitizer is easier to find and we're better at seeing when we're muted on Zoom.
How has Nebraska Methodist College been doing? We asked our President and CEO Deb Carlson to weigh in on the last year and the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us.
I have learned that change can happen fast and many things might be out of your control. However, if you manage the change and look to what you can control, it all works out.
I always knew NMC was a special place, but I had no idea how it would respond to a major crisis. Faculty, staff and students were amazing with their grace, understanding and caring that was shared. Together, we not only survived, we thrived on almost all measures of success.
The college will never be the same, but in many ways, we will be better. Going through this crisis has helped us to focus on student success on a deeper level. We learned we can do things in new ways to help everyone balance this new normal. I learned NMC is strong and committed to students, quality teaching, learning and each other. It will take more than a health crisis to bring us down.
When COVID-19 hit last spring, the college prepared to weather the storm. Our goal was to keep our students, faculty and staff safe while still meeting our mission of educating the best healthcare professionals. A year later, we still don't know when the storm will end.
By every single measure, we had one of our most successful years on record. December BSN nursing graduates had a 100% board pass-rate, after a year of uncertainty in classes, clinicals and other challenges. Occupational therapy and other programs also had a 100% board pass-rate in 2020. Our retention rates increased from 89% to 92% as we reached out even more to students with resources and support.
We held tuition with no increase for the fourth year in a row, as we looked for ways for our students to graduate with less debt. We changed our BSN curriculum to a population health focus to help with community needs and provide a way for transfer students to graduate sooner.
We worked on diversity and increasing opportunities for minorities with grants, scholarships and policy changes. We improved our partnerships with other colleges to become more transfer friendly. Midland University is now offering free CNA programs to their students and community members, which NMC will manage and teach. Our respiratory care program is now offered to Chadron and Wayne State students as well as University of Nebraska at Kearney.
We worked even harder on our mission to improve the health and wellbeing of the community by offering over 170 students free CNA training. This gave them a start in healthcare and a pathway to further their education. With the help of the Methodist Foundation, we hope to continue offering free CNA training.
We partnered with the Douglas County Health Department to offer COVID-19 vaccination to underserved, vulnerable populations, one of the first in the nation to do so.
Nebraska Methodist College not only weathered the storm — we learned to dance in the rain. We did it by holding true to our mission, using our core values of caring, excellence, learning, holism and respect to guide us in everything we do.
Dr. Carlson joined Nebraska Methodist College in 2004. She is the third president and CEO of NMC. In her previous role as the Executive Vice President, she provided direction for the college's strategic planning, operations, accreditation, effectiveness, leadership development and succession planning, facility management, engagement and wellness. In addition, she provided oversight and strategic guidance over Compliance, Institutional Research, the Division of Professional Development and Community Partnerships, Business Office, Financial Aid, Food Services, Bookstore, Student Health, Facilities, Student Housing and Library Services.
Prior to NMC, Carlson taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and was a research professor for the Center for Instructional Innovation. She started her career in teaching at Wayne State College.