How Politics Affect the Development and Evolvement of a Nursing Program: Engaging Colleagues in the Community to Improve Global Health Outcomes

Thursday, 24 July 2014: 3:35 PM

Patricia R. Messmer, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN
School of Nursing, Benjamín León School of Nursing Miami Dade College, Miami, FL
Annette Gibson, DNP, MEd, RN, CNE
School of Nursing, Benjamín León School of Nursing, Miami Dade College, Medical Campus, Miami, FL
Amy C. Pettigrew, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF
School of Nursing, Benjamin León School of Nursing, Miami Dade College,, Miami, FL

On December 10, 2013 Barack Obama shook hands with Raul Castro at Mandela’s’ memorial in South Africa. This gesture can be viewed as a move toward global cooperation and expanding Miami Dade College (MDC) community across 90 miles addressing community health nursing, service learning and medical missions for academics and global health outcomes.  

Purpose: of this historical study was to shed light of the Cuban influence for the past 50+ years on the nursing program at Miami Dade College (MDC).

Methods: Interviews from primary and secondary sources were collected along with a collection of historical documents and newspaper articles.  Validity of documents was established by external criticism; reliability by internal criticism.

Results: The opening of the nursing program at Dade County Junior College began a new era of nursing education for Miami’s diverse community. The program began soon after the federal government deeded the old Marine airbase replete with buildings, barracks and an airfield on NW 27th Avenue to Miami-Dade for $1.00.  Operation Pedro Pan (1960-1962), a codename of the CIA project with 14,000+ Cuban children being sent by their parents to Miami, Florida after rumors  spread that Fidel Castro would begin taking children against their parents’ wishes to military schools and Soviet labour camps. Pedro Pan transported the children of parents who opposed the revolutionary government and placed them with friends, relatives and group homes in 35 states. Until the last “freedom flights” ended in April 1973 there was a constant stream of Cuban exiles filing through the Freedom Tower which is owned by the President of MDC since he and other administrators, faculty and students are Cuban exiles. Chloe Trammel, a former instructor at Jackson Memorial Hospital and on Florida League for Nursing Board was the first director with 10 faculty at Miami-Dade Junior College (North Campus) program in 1962. Under Trammel’s leadership, 26 students enrolled in Dade County’s first program to offer a two year associate degree in nursing (ASN). In 1969, Mike Kinkead was the only man on the South Campus with Director Cora Mazzagatti. Mike, married to Emilie of the US Air Force Medical Corps was inspired to pursue nursing at Miami Dade Community College (MDCC) after 4 years as an Air Force medical specialist; Mike was discriminated on gender bias while applying at different nursing schools. In 1969, Mike became President of the Florida Student Nurses Association while he and Emilie worked as CNAs at Baptist Hospital.  In 1971, the LPN program transferred from Mount Sinai Hospital to MDCC. Under Dean Jeanne Stark (1978-1989), Chairperson of Florida Board of Nursing, the nursing programs included “Bridging Cuban Nurses in Exile”, educating foreign educated physicians for nursing, providing programs for RNs returning to work. Sylvia Edge (1990-1995) instituted flexible schedules and offered classes at hospitals facilitating LPNs to ASN, based on King’s Goal Attainment Theory. Director Fran Aronvitz (1966-2004) offered innovative programs with 100% scholarships; more than 50% of the graduates proceeded to 4 year colleges with Nurses Charitable Trust Scholarships. Lessie Pryor (2006-2009) developed computerized testing when only 4% of the schools used it and launched the RN-BSN program. Dean Amy Pettigrew has integrated human patient simulation into the classroom, encouraged medical missions to Haiti and Dominican Republic for faculty and students and hosts nursing students from Haiti for immersion.

Conclusion: Many of the area clinical nurses and nursing faculty began their career at MDC. There are 75+ faculty, 100 adjuncts teaching 650 students in RN-BSN (with an Honor Society) and 1200 in ASN (N-OADN Honor Society) programs with 60% Hispanic, 30% Blacks and 10% White; 80% females 20% males. More than 19,000 nurses have earned their degrees from MDC, making it the largest area provider of nursing education especially for culturally diverse students. MDC nursing graduates, like their predecessors, serve Miami’s ever-growing global community and perhaps Cuba in the future.