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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
May 31, 2006
DeKalb — A Red Cross nurse, touted as “the best-dressed woman in the world,” stands ready and proud on a battlefield in France during World War I.
Next to her, surrounding a good-natured patient's hospital bed with hammers, saws and scissors, are a group of fun-loving nurses adorned in the starched white uniforms and crisp white caps not worn or seen in generations.
These are framed works of nearly century-old art – the first a print of a painting by Gilbert Gaul, the second a print of a black-and-white photograph – that depict Brigid Lusk's love of the history of nursing.
Yet it is the future of nursing that lies in her hands.
Lusk, who served as acting chair of the Northern Illinois University School of Nursing for two years, has accepted the appointment of chair.
“I'm thrilled and honored,” says Lusk, who earned her master's degree at NIU and joined the nursing faculty in 1995. “This is an exciting time to take the leadership in the School of Nursing. The College of Health and Human Sciences is conducting a self-study, and the committees are working to look at ways we can maximize resources while simultaneously growing in the ways we need to grow.”
“The College of Health and Human Sciences conducted a national search and feels fortunate that Dr. Lusk has accepted the position,” Dean Shirley Richmond says. “Dr. Lusk has shown excellent leadership as acting chair, and I am confident that she will continue to lead the School of Nursing forward in reaching the goals and challenges of the future in health care.”
First on Lusk's agenda is a meeting with the school's faculty, whom she praises for their teaching, their research and their success at winning external funding.
She wants to update the school's strategic plan – “It expired when I walked in the door as acting chair, and we've put that on hold,” she says – and to determine the faculty's willingness to create and staff an accelerated baccalaureate program.
The nursing shortage persists, Lusk says, and NIU “is poised to be a leader” in finding ways to relieve or resolve the crisis.
“This program would be for people who already have bachelor's degrees who want to become registered nurses. This would help to address the nursing shortage with rapidly prepared nurses,” she says. “This could take place over 12 to 18 months – summers, weekends, odd hours – as something innovative to use this building over the 12 months of the year.”
Lusk also is working with other nurse leaders in the Illinois Council on Nursing Resources to support Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plan to initiate a centralized nursing information center in Illinois.
Meanwhile, she continues to forge new partnerships with community colleges and hospitals in northern Illinois to offer the school's popular RN-to-BS completion program. A cohort of registered nurses with associate's degrees will begin this fall at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village.
NIU also recently announced a new partnership to provide bachelor's degrees in nursing at Harper College. Starting this fall, NIU nursing professors will teach classes on the college's Palatine campus.
“We have some great faculty here, and we're in the process of hiring one or two more. We also have great students,” says Lusk, who continues to celebrate recent news of an unprecedented 100-percent pass rate on the December state board exams. “We have a new M.S. track, and the first class just started in January of this year.”
A native of the United Kingdom, Lusk immigrated to the United States in 1974 and worked as a nurse in medical intensive care at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and various area hospitals for about 15 years.
She taught as an instructor in the School of Nursing for three years before leaving for the University of Illinois at Chicago to pursue her Ph.D., which she earned in 1995. Her résumé also includes previous experience as an administrator – she served as acting associate dean in 2001 – and she's writing a book on the history of the nursing care of cancer patients from 1880 to 1950.
Lusk and her husband, Rusty, an acting division chair for math and computer science at Argonne National Laboratory, are the parents of two grown children and three cats. They live in Downers Grove.
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