Meredith Jameson had never considered becoming a nurse until it was nurses who helped her son get through a health crisis seven years ago. A newborn, he was put in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) when it was thought he had a bacterial infection in his blood.

Although initially diagnosed with sepsis, it turned out he was suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. “It was the personal experience that caused me to look at nursing,” said Jameson, who, having earned a bachelor’s degree in history, was working as a technical writer/editor at the time. “The nurses there really kind of got me through it. It just slowly started getting the wheels turning and now here we are.”

“Here” is in Littleton, where Jameson is embarking on a mid-life career change while raising her three children, ages 9, 7 and 5. She is going back to school, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing in the prestigious University of Colorado College of Nursing. As a significant bonus, thanks to CU’s recent expansion to south Denver, Jameson won’t have to travel far to class.

In August, CU launches its south Denver location, an innovative collaboration with The Wildlife Experience (left). At this superb educational facility in the heart of the region, two of CU’s campuses—the Anschutz Medical Campus and the Denver Campus—will offer programs that are in high demand among south Denver residents, including courses in nursing, business, education, computer science and public health (see below for details).

Convenient classroom location

For Jameson, it will take just 20 minutes to get to class. “I don’t necessarily mind driving 45 minutes to an hour one-way to school, but it would be nice not to have to,” she said. “That’s a lot of extra time that’s just wasted sitting in a car, especially when you have kids.”

A regular volunteer at University of Colorado Hospital, Jameson knew CU’s College of Nursing is ranked among the top nursing programs in the nation. “Once I started applying I realized it’s extraordinarily competitive to be admitted to the CU College of Nursing and that added a layer of challenge for me: Can I get into this top-notch program, and then once I’m in, can I succeed?”

Jameson, who wants to become an NICU nurse, will join the first nursing cohort of 36 students at the south Denver location east of Interstate 25 and Lincoln Avenue. Similar to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, The Wildlife Experience will be equipped with a simulation laboratory which offers exemplary opportunities in clinical education.

“One of the things I like about the CU program is that it has cutting-edge technology,” Jameson said. “It’s nice to know that I’ll still have access to that.”

Jameson’s cohort will also have access to the innovative partnership between the College of Nursing and Centura Health, which has four health care facilities in the south Denver area: Littleton Adventist Hospital, Porter Adventist Hospital, Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and Parker Adventist Hospital.

Immersion opportunity

For their clinical rotations, the nursing students will be placed in a single south-Denver Centura Health hospital. “This partnership presents a unique opportunity for our students to be immersed in one system,” said CU College of Nursing Dean and Professor Sarah Thompson (right), PhD, RN, FAAN. “It will provide a greater opportunity to focus on the clinical learning.”

Sharon Pappas, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, chief nursing officer for Porter Adventist Hospital and chief nurse executive of Centura Health, said Centura is “thrilled” to collaborate with the CU College of Nursing on the student placements. “When you combine quality hospitals that have excellent nursing care with a college of nursing that’s one of the top schools in the country, I think it’s a fabulous combination,” Pappas said. “It’s great to have access to an additional number of CU nursing students.”

Pappas said it’s important for nurses to be well-connected with other team members involved in patient care, including physicians, pharmacists and therapists. “It’s a team effort,” she said. “To me, the immersion creates a much more conducive learning environment.”

She noted that Centura Health’s south-Denver hospitals offer an array of specialties—including a stroke center, trauma center and high-risk surgery center—that will further enhance the clinical placements for CU students. “We also have a strong behavioral health program,” Pappas said. “All of those things are pretty essential to a nurse’s experience and that they have the opportunity to learn in all of those areas.”

Cutting-edge technology

The simulation lab features the same high-fidelity mannequins that are used at the Anschutz Medical Campus. CU’s Thompson said the facility, which will be housed in The Wildlife Experience’s lower level, provides a safe context for learning to care for patients. “It just expands students’ ability to clinically reason in a complex situation,” she said. “In a hospital things are moving so fast that sometimes it’s hard to stop and say, ‘Tell me what you’re thinking in this scenario.’ Our new lab allows students to practice and practice so they feel better when they enter the clinical setting.”

Thompson said the university conducted a feasibility study that found that south Denver is the fastest-growing area in the metro region. The need for health care in the area will continue to grow, she said, “and I think it’s a unique opportunity for us to train students in that area, closer to where they live and will likely work. Many of our students were excited that they would spend less time commuting.”

Thompson noted that 70 percent of the College of Nursing’s students are like Jameson: They are second-degree students, often married and raising a family. “So the convenience of having a south Denver location is huge,” she said.

Pappas (left) said the partnership with CU is a win in another area—recruitment and workforce development. “This innovative approach of students doing their entire clinical in one hospital also gives us a really good chance to recruit these nurses into our hospitals, which is something we’re very excited about.”

She said peers in the profession will likely monitor the outcome of the immersion program. “We’re excited to be part of something innovative and eager to produce evidence that will help the nursing profession as a whole.”

Jameson, meanwhile, is looking forward to completing a journey that began when she learned just how much of an impact an NICU nurse can have. Her son is now 7 and healthy, but every day he is a reminder of why she wants to enter the medical profession.

“The NICU is an intense emotional journey for parents,” Jameson said. “I just remember thinking, ‘If I can get through this I can forget it.’ But I learned that once a NICU parent, always a NICU parent. I want to be a nurse who understands what it’s like to be a parent in that situation.”


A CU education allows students to gain essential knowledge and skills to help them succeed in their careers. Employers will enjoy easier access to university-level resources and a growing pool of highly educated local talent. Initial offerings in south Denver for fall 2014 include (continue to check the CU South Denver website for updated information and new class offerings):

College of Nursing
Traditional pathway to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a 24-month program that allows students to balance educational pursuits with the demands of job and family.
Business School
Certificate in general business with for-credit courses that can be used toward an MBA or specialty master’s degree. Initial courses include Leading Individuals and Teams, and Analyzing and Interpreting Accounting Information.
College of Engineering and Applied Science
Certificates in software engineering, computer forensics and computer science teacher education.
Initial courses include Computer Forensics I, Software Architecture, and Principles of Programming.
School of Education & Human Development
Addictions Counseling course introducing students to the theory and practice of addictions counseling.
Trauma course/workshop helping students gain awareness of various trauma response symptoms, behaviors and diagnoses.
Colorado School of Public Health
A certificate of professional achievement in Health Industry Analytics featuring a series of integrative courses to provide the analytics skills necessary for today’s changing health care market.
Initial courses include The Affordable Care Act and the U.S. Health Care System, and Principles of Decision Analysis in Health Care.

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