Southern to advance Virgin Island program

Nursing opportunities are coming to students in the British Virgin Islands.

Missouri Southern and the government of the Virgin Islands have been working on setting up a nursing program through the University for island students.

Currently, there are 17 students studying through online anatomy and physiology classes. The University also has a business program already set up with the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College on the island.

However, Dr. Tia Strait, dean of technology, is working on getting a full nursing degree for the students at the community college in the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Jenecia Fairfax, director of nursing and education research for the government of the Virgin Islands, came to Southern to make a tour of the campus.

“We were trying to find out if this is going to be a good match,” Fairfax said. “If a student goes abroad, are they going to gain experience and knowledge they would never get at home? I want to make sure it [Southern] will afford them [students] that knowledge.”

Fairfax said several components exist in analyzing a location. The first depends on if the area is more rural or urban. This is important because many of the students in the Virgin Islands come from smaller cities with 20,000 people in them.

Ethnic diversity is another item to discuss. Fairfax said she would talk with students and see what their opinions of the area were before she would make a decision.

Fairfax, however, did have a positive feeling about Southern.

“I was impressed with two things,” she said. “One is the small classroom size.”

Fairfax said the other factor was the attitude of the nursing program.

“The faculty is very outgoing and warm,” she said.

Fairfax noted the attitude of the faculty is an important part of the curriculum because of the nature of the programs.

The programs which are in development would allow students in the Virgin Islands to study the core subjects at their home for two years and then study at Southern for the last two years.

“We couldn’t do what we are doing without distant education,” Strait said.

Strait also said the possibility for nursing students to go to the Virgin Islands as part of their community project while earning their degree.

The programs are funding through government grants in the Virgin Islands. Students can apply for nursing scholarships as soon as they graduate high school. Then, they must meet the requirements of the Southern nursing program in order to enroll.

“[These programs] allow us to increase the number of students from our own,” Fairfax said.

She said the current nurses on the islands usually come from other countries and there is a shortage of nurses who come from within the islands.

If all goes as expected, the first students to enroll in the program will arrive at Southern in the Fall of 2006.