University of Navarre's School of Nursing

The University of Navarre’s School of Nursing began operations in 1954, at the same time as the University’s Medical School.

The Founder of Opus Dei encouraged the teaching of nursing at the university level and wanted the formation given to be on a high scientific, technical, and human level. Throughout his life, he often spoke of his great esteem for this profession, and of the great Christian influence nurses could have in society.

At that time, the Ministry of Education required that schools of nursing be integrated into medical schools. Therefore, the first Dean of the Medical School, Dr. Juan Jiménez Vargas, was also the first director of the School of Nursing. Three women formed the Board of Directors of the School: Dr. María Casal Wismer, María Jesús Domingo Casas and María Victoria Tabernero Palacios.

In 1961 the Clinica Universitaria (university hospital) of the University of Navarre was opened. The link between the School of Nursing and the university hospital was an important step forward since the responsibility for the care of the patients there permitted the development of the full array of human attitudes and skills that characterize the nursing professional and that acquire their deepest value and significance thanks to a Christian spirit of service and disinterested dedication to others.

The following years saw a growing development of the scientific formation of the nursing students, and a consolidation of the spirit that the University of Navarre always seeks to exemplify.

Profile of a profession

At the present time the School of Nursing has 612 students. The profile of those who graduate is that of a well-trained professional, highly sensitive to the human dimension of the patients, who shows initiative in detecting and resolving problems and in making decisions in the exercise of her profession, together with a strong ethical background based on Christian principles.

An essential characteristic of the professional formation imparted is the recognition of the radical dignity of each human person, created by God and redeemed by Christ, and the view of work as a service to others. This service presupposes a demanding dedication to the patients’ medical care and a refined solicitude for all their needs.

Behind this outlook lie the teachings of Blessed Josemaría: “Children... the sick... As you write these words, don’t you feel tempted to write them with capitals? —The reason is that in little children and in the sick a soul in love sees Him!”[1]

Suffering, never far removed from the exercise of this profession, is a mystery which ultimately only has meaning and value in the light of Christ’s cross. Opus Dei’s Founder, the first Chancellor of this university, said on one occasion, “I think that being a nurse is a vocation especially well suited to a Christian. But for that vocation to be perfected, it is necessary that you be nurses who are well prepared scientifically, and that you have a great sensitivity to the patients’ needs and dignity.”[2]

Reflective practice

At present the plan of studies for the diploma in nursing provides for a three year course with obligatory core subjects and other optional subjects that enable students to shape their own studies.

A modular system is followed in which students alternate theoretical classes with practical sessions in the various hospital departments. The practical sessions are arranged so that the students are integrated in a natural way into the teams of nurses in each department. From the time that they arrive at the School, the students experience their professional field from within, participating actively. The course of studies is designed so that each student progressively acquires the level of practical competence that corresponds to their theoretical studies, developing ever more complex and specialized skills.

A special characteristic of the University of Navarre’s Nursing School is the emphasis it places on reflection as a part of the learning process. The students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences in each part of the nursing program they are involved in, reflecting on and evaluating them. Thus the future nurses, with the help of personal tutoring, develop the competence and ethical criteria they will need in their profession.

The core of the practical rotation is carried out in the University Hospital, but it can also be done in other health institutions, both public and private, in the province of Navarre.

In addition, each student has the choice of voluntarily doing part of their work for credit in developing countries or in charitable institutions, thus exercising solidarity with and offering their expertise to more needy communities. This volunteer work is carried out in the summer with the financial aid of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and under the supervision of Nursing School faculty. These voluntary stints give them first hand experience of impoverished social situations and teach them to administer very limited resources.

Last summer, a group of Nursing School students did their volunteer practical work in two homes for the aged in Valpaços, in Portugal, and in a community in Chiclayo, Peru.

Specialized courses

The University of Navarre Nursing School organizes specialized courses for those who want to work in the following clinical areas: Cardiology, Surgery, Intensive Care, Pediatric Medicine, Psychiatry, Operating Room Procedures, Medical Hospitalization Units and Surgical Hospitalization Units.

In each of these specialties, each student receives between 200 and 300 hours of theory in the basics of the specialty and carries out up to 1800 hours of work in a hospital unit. The method of teaching continues to be individualized, which is why only a limited number of applications can be accepted each year.

The School, because of its inter-disciplinary character, has close relations not only with the Medical School, but also with the Schools of Pharmacy, Science (Biology, Nutrition and Dietetics, and Biochemistry), Philosophy, Education and Theology. These relationships facilitate the integral formation of the students and help keep the faculty continually up to date.

[1] Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, no. 419.

[2] Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, Get-Together, May 25, 1974.

Romana, n. 29, July-December 1999, p. 270-272.

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