The Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing at Shenandoah University will be a recognized leader in educational and professional development with dynamic diverse programs that span the continuum of learning. The humanitarian contributions embedded in the community by faculty and students will distinguish the School of Nursing as unique and strengthen the profession of nursing.
The mission of the School of Nursing is to empower lifelong learners who provide evidence-based, compassionate care to promote wellness for all.
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The History of Nursing at Shenandoah
The nursing program at Shenandoah began in 1962 when Winchester Medical Center, then a 400-bed community hospital, transferred its diploma nursing program into this academic setting. In 1981, the faculty and program leaders, responding to the American Nurses Association (ANA) endorsement of the baccalaureate degree as the minimal education qualification for entry into professional nursing practice, sought to determine the need for BSN nurses in the local community. The faculty developed and established a post-RN baccalaureate in nursing program. The program offers a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in nursing (BSN), and is the entry point for registered nurses wishing to earn their degree. The RN-BSN program achieved initial National League for Nursing (NLN) accreditation for the undergraduate BSN program in 1993.
Expanding on its accomplishments and based on an analysis of community needs assessment, in 1995 the faculty, conceptualized three specialty tracks; those were Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse-Midwifery (NMW), and Adult Health.
Students seeking a Master of Science in Nursing now have the option of seeking psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certification as well as the FNP and NMW. Fall 2008 witnessed the inception of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. The initial DNP programs were for FNPs and PMHNPs. In 2016, the DNP for Health Systems Leadership was initiated.
Most of the faculty members hold doctorates and several hold Master’s Degrees in Nursing. The faculty includes Certified Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP), certified Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM), and dually certified as Nurse Practitioner Psychiatric (NPP) and a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing.
The Northern Virginia campus was founded in 2001 with an accelerated BSN program, with two admissions-fall and spring-each year.
In 2008, the Division of Nursing welcomed the addition of Continuing Education and Parish/Faith Community Nursing.
The Division of Nursing became the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing in October, 2012, named after a long-time supporter of nursing at Shenandoah University. At that time the Division of Respiratory Care was moved into the School of Nursing. The School of Nursing now has its own Dean and governance independent from the School of Health Professions. In 2017, Shenandoah University and INOVA created a partnership to educate the next generation of health care professionals. Programs in Shenandoah University’s health professions, including nursing, began in August, 2017, at the new campus in Fairfax, VA, known as the INOVA Center for Personalized Health (ICPH). Graduate programs in nursing offered at this campus are a Master of Science in Nursing or post graduate certificate as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and a Master of Science in Nursing or post graduate certificate as an Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP). A new certificate in Patient Care Navigation is also offered. All programs are designed to serve the needs of current, practicing health care professionals both at INOVA and across the country.
On October 5, 2012, at a gala marking the 50th anniversary of Shenandoah University Nursing, university president Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons announced the transition of the SU Division of Nursing to the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing, naming Dr. Kathryn Ganske, director, as the first dean of the School.
On June 30, 2016, the School of Nursing welcomed Kathleen LaSala, Ph.D., RN, PNP, CNE as dean, who remained dean through January 2020. Lisa Levinson, Ph.D., RN was the Acting Dean until September 2023 when she became Dean of the Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing.
Eleanor Wade Custer was a tireless supporter of nursing. She was a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Francis Payne Bolt School of Nursing, and she worked at both Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Visiting Nurses Association. In 1983, the nursing center at Shenandoah University was named for her, and will be carried forward as the name of our new school of nursing.
SU Nursing has accomplished much over the past 50 years, growing to the third largest program at the university, with more than 480 students. Nursing has also garnered nearly $6 million in grants and scholarships, increasing its reputation through faculty and staff recruitment and serving on regional and national boards. We’re very proud of all we’ve accomplished, providing an outstanding education to new and advanced practice nurses for 50 years!