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EIU Media Relations

Nelson Returning to Area to Lead EIU's New Nursing Program


Dianne E. Nelson, a familiar face to many local nurses, has been chosen to serve as the founding director of Eastern Illinois University’s nursing program.

Nelson taught hundreds of students in nursing classes in her eight years at Lake Land College before leaving in 2002 to become an assistant professor in Indiana State University’s College of Nursing in Terre Haute, Ind.

Starting July 1, Nelson will be back in Coles County to help shape the future of EIU’s bachelor’s of science in nursing degree program, which is tentatively set to begin offering courses in August 2007.

“I am very excited to be back in east-central Illinois,” Nelson said. “I enjoyed teaching at Lake Land, and I am very familiar with health care in the area. I want to establish a high-quality program that meets the needs of the nurses and the health-care facilities of our area.”

The program, often called a BSN-completion degree, is geared toward registered nurses, and Nelson said she is excited to have such an integral part in its development.

Nelson helped add a BSN-completion component to the curriculum when she taught at Arkansas Tech University prior to moving to Lake Land, so she’s no stranger to getting such a program up and running.

“This is a very important new program for Eastern, and we look forward to its successful initiation under Dr. Nelson’s leadership,” said Blair Lord, EIU provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Nelson’s initial tasks at EIU are to more fully develop courses and curriculum and gain campus approval for them, hire staff and faculty, develop policies for the program, develop recruitment and admission materials, establish clinical sites with area health-care agencies and providers, and prepare the program for accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

“Dr. Nelson’s broad experiences and resourcefulness will assist her in bringing all the necessary assets together for a successful BSN-completion program and the very first nursing program at EIU,” said Mary Anne Hanner, dean of the EIU College of Sciences.

Nelson plans to meet with health-care professionals, including potential students, to make sure the program will be designed to meet their needs.

For nurses who plan to remain working at the bedside, the program will increase their knowledge and allow them to work at a more advanced level, Nelson said.

The program can also provide expanded career opportunities, such as working as a nurse manager or attending graduate school to become an advanced practice nurse or an educator in higher education.

It can also be used as a stepping stone for those planning to become nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists.

The EIU program should help the nursing shortage by keeping existing RNs in the area, because nurses who have the opportunity to advance their education are more likely to remain in the profession, Nelson said.

“This will be a great option for nurses in practice and those who are planning their academic careers,” she said.

In addition to having experience teaching from the associate degree level to the graduate level, Nelson has worked as a nurse herself, so she has a good understanding of students’ needs from all angles.

“We want to have a personal program that meets the needs of the working nurse,” Nelson said. “It tends to be a nontraditional student group, but they tend to be highly motivated. I know that their schedules often require alternative forms of class structure. I’m anxious to work with them.”

Although some online classes likely will be offered, Nelson envisions them as including some in-class time to keep the personal touch.

“Eastern always has had good faculty-student relations, and I’d like to continue that with this program,” she said.

Nelson plans to work extensively with other nursing programs in the region to ensure students’ seamless transition to EIU.

Nelson’s other experience includes teaching nursing courses at John A. Logan Community College in Carterville and working as a charge and staff nurse at Carbondale Memorial Hospital for five years.

Nelson received her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Iowa in 1977, her master’s in community and family nursing from the University of Central Arkansas in 1989, and her doctorate in community and family nursing from Rush University in Chicago in 2004.

She has received several awards for her research and her roles in nursing education.

Nelson resides in Charleston with her husband, Thomas A. Nelson, an EIU professor of biological sciences and coordinator of EIU’s environmental biology program.

For a high-resolution photo of Dianne Nelson, please contact Janice Hunt at or 217-581-7400.



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Media Relations
Josh Reinhart, Public Information Coordinator

2142 Old Main
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920
Fax: 217-581-8444

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