Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 1, 2019

Dr. Lea Johnson nursing

Dr. Lea Johnson, new vice president for health science initiatives, will oversee the development of the nursing program.

Photo provided

New Nursing Program Coming to Manchester

Tiffany Williams


President David McFadden announced in Feb 2019 that Manchester University is developing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program with the help of Lea Johnson, the new vice president for health science initiatives.

Johnson joined Manchester University in fall 2018 and brings over 20 years of higher education experience. She is known for her transformative leadership within academic healthcare: she worked for a decade in academic nursing and healthcare administration at a major university that had close to 800 students, and later served as the president of two healthcare colleges where the largest programs were nursing.

Johnson was hired to plan, develop and launch MU’s nursing program, as well as other healthcare-related programs, to meet market needs and help Manchester advance its mission. “I feel I understand the nursing educational process, the stressors students face when preparing for direct patient care and importance of having a supportive and nurturing educational environment,” Johnson said. “With our institutional values and focus on respect and holistic education, I believe we can have a wonderful nursing program at Manchester.”

Manchester University’s Board of Trustees gave unanimous approval to developing the program during their January meeting. There is no definite time when the program will be ready, but Johnson says it could take until 2022 depending on various factors. “Our start date depends on the length of time it takes to hire a nursing director, and on the two accrediting groups--the Indiana State Board of Nursing and the Higher Learning Commission,” Johnson said through email. “We are not allowed to recruit or admit students to the program until approvals from both groups have been received.”

The nursing director position was posted nationally last week and, according to Johnson, it may take 5–7 months to find a strong leader for that position. The split campus program between North Manchester and Fort Wayne features two distinct clinical environments, urban and rural, which requires a director who is student-centered, highly creative and entrepreneurial. “I believe the right person is out there,” Johnson said. “They simply need to see our ad.”

Once Manchester finds a suitable nursing director, they must pursue accreditation from the Indiana State Board of Nursing and the Higher Learning Commission. To do this, the nursing director must develop a curriculum and then apply for review by the Indiana State Board of Nursing. The Board will vote to approve the director after he or she reviews the teaching facility, curriculum and the library.

Additionally, the director will have to meet the faculty as well as staff from financial aid, admissions, and the business office before the Board will vote. Only after being approved can Manchester present their application to the Higher Learning Commission. If approved, the program can be posted on Manchester’s website and admissions can begin to admit prospective students.

Nursing is frequently mentioned as an area of interest by prospective students and interest in nursing majors is strong throughout the country and continues to grow. This is one of the reasons Manchester University decided to pursue a nursing program. The second reason is that there are more than 700 nursing jobs that go unfilled in Indiana each year.

The nursing program would offer excellent preparation for career opportunities since nursing jobs are predicted to grow. Manchester expects its nursing program to be distinctive in several ways as it will focus on both rural and urban health, incorporate a strong interdisciplinary learning model and will be infused with liberal arts competencies. Such competencies include: communication, conflict, resolution, critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, service, collaboration and leadership.

Once the nursing program is underway, it will have a home in both locations. Students will spend their first two years on campus in North Manchester taking liberal arts courses as well as fulfill their science requirements. The last two years will be spent in Fort Wayne since over fifty percent of that time will be devoted to clinical experiences that are hospital-based. The divide also caters to the three distinct ways the curriculum will be delivered: lectures, nursing skills lab, and clinicals. Nursing skills lab will be in North Manchester while clinicals will be in Fort Wayne where students have access to SIM labs, which have the most advanced technology, including manikins that can be programmed to mimic serious medical emergencies and conditions.

The program will probably start too late for Manchester’s current students. However, once it begins, the program will provide Manchester University students with additional high-demand career opportunities. “A nursing degree provides a great career path and it can also serve as a springboard to other health-related career opportunities,” Johnson said.