Margaret “Marge” Lacey, Ph.D.
Margaret “Marge” Lacey, Ph.D., professor of nursing, is a woman who loves what she’s doing. With 25 years of academic nursing experience, Lacey said her favorite part of the job is “the students. I love the students, all levels of students, whether they’re beginning or an R.N. who is mirroring what I did.”
Lacey explained that “back in the day,” when she was preparing to enter the profession, nurses were educated in schools overseen by hospitals.
“I trained at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Darby, PA,” she explained, “then received my bachelor’s from Gwynedd-Mercy College.” She earned her master’s from Widener, with a focus on oncology, and received her Ph.D. from Temple University. Before taking on the division chair position at Immaculata, she taught at Immaculata for more than four years, becoming a full professor in 2006.
Lacey said the biggest change she sees in the evolution of nursing education is that the men and women entering that field “need to be highly-educated, and I believe it should be in a university setting. Nurses need to be problem-solvers and critical thinkers. That’s not new, but today, we’re really working on enhancing those skills even more.”
Immaculata’s Nursing Division is big and complex, according to Lacey. “We have about 200 traditional undergraduates in the four-year pre-licensure program,” Lacey said. “There are between 600 and 700 enrolled in the R.N. to B.S.N. program, and 100-plus studying for their M.S.N.” The master’s level nurses choose between two concentrations, nursing education or nursing administration. That course of study was initiated in 2003, and its first diplomas went to six graduates in December 2006.
The R.N. to B.S.N. program is tailored to those already in the nursing field who wish to earn an undergraduate degree. It began as a mostly part-time evening program. Lacey said, “We have done a good job with this. We’re now at 30 sites in southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware offering our B.S.N. program to nurses where they work. Many schools have tried to replicate that. And we just were granted permission to go into New Jersey with the program.”
For many jobs, she said, “You have to be an R.N., a registered nurse, which you can acquire at a community college and obtain an associate’s degree. But now, those hiring in the healthcare field want nurses to have a stronger academic background.
“Now, most healthcare organizations in this area—all the biggies—are requiring graduates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing,” Lacey said. Recently, she noted, more and more hospital administrators have been coming to Immaculata asking the University to offer its master’s program on-site.
“We’re doing it,” she said. “The whole service area of nursing is driving the nursing profession to be more educated. It’s wonderful.”
Anyone hiring a nurse who has graduated from Immaculata is getting someone who is truly the “cream of the crop,” according to Lacey, who noted that University nursing students have the advantage of working with state-of-the-art simulation equipment.
“We now have high-tech mannequins, such as SimMan and SimMom, that simulate patients,” Lacey said. “They are great tools. We can simulate a problem a patient might be having, like bleeding, a drop in blood pressure or a heart rate issue. We simulate all of this in a lab setting, and students have to problem-solve quickly.”
Although Immaculata’s Nursing Division was founded as a department in 1984, as an R.N. to B.S.N. program, the first class of undergraduates enrolled in the traditional pre-licensure course of study graduated in May 2012.
“This was a little, fledgling program that has grown by leaps and bounds,” said Lacey, the pride in her voice shining through. “Today, we are a major player in all facets of the University, undergraduate, the College of LifeLong Learning and at the graduate level, and we are a real presence at Immaculata. I believe we have an excellent faculty and excellence across the board in all of our programs.” There is even a post-baccalaureate course of study designed to meet the needs of school nurses.
The Nursing Division chair said she oversees 15 full-time faculty members, in addition to more than 60 adjuncts and two division secretaries.
Many of Immaculata’s nursing students hear about the school via word-of-mouth, Lacey said, because of the reputation the University has. The recruitment efforts for the pre-licensure program are handled by the Admissions Office staff.
“I think our R.N. to B.S.N. program has really been marketing itself,” Lacey noted, “and now healthcare institutions actually approach us. It’s very inviting for them to have us on-site, teaching where their nurses work.”
The Nursing Division at Immaculata has earned accreditation through the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education through 2021, a peer review distinction Lacey noted adds “greater legitimacy and prestige” to the degrees offered.
“Accreditation provides an unbiased confirmation that Immaculata’s Nursing program meets expectations to adequately prepare individuals for professional practice, lifelong learning and graduate education,” Lacey noted, and added, “The American Association of Holistic Nursing has awarded us for our innovative Holistic Nursing program for students going from R.N. to B.S.N. This is an honor for us.” She explained that Immaculata’s mission is to impart to nurses the view that all humans are composed of mind, body and spirit, and that these components are intertwined and inseparable.
“We don’t look only at the disease,” Lacey said. “We look at each patient holistically, because it is important to take into account each individual’s spiritual needs, too. We teach all of our students from day one that we’re not just looking at numbers on the monitor, we’re looking at the individual patient. The nursing faculty discuss the concept of self-care with our students, as well. So often caregivers are so busy providing care for others that they fail to care for themselves, which is critical in avoiding burn-out.”
Students enrolled in the pre-licensure courses study both the liberal arts and sciences in a program designed to prepare them to care for patients through the lifespan from conception to a dignified death. Students undertake clinical rotations that range from pediatrics and intensive care to drug and alcohol rehabilitation, psychiatric care and community health.
In addition, students at the University are encouraged to become involved in community service with organizations including Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, Catholic Social Services and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
In the meantime, Lacey oversees the day-to-day administration of the Nursing Division. There is no “typical day,” she said, which is part of why she enjoys the challenge of her position.
“I deal with many details regarding scheduling or searching for clinical faculty,” she said, “and there are some days when I might have a lot of meetings.” She recently met with one of the University’s assistant vice presidents to go over the division’s strategic plans, and it is also her responsibility to take care of issues that come up with students. “No two days are the same, and I like it that way,” Lacey said.
“I really love Immaculata,” she said, “The IHM Sisters’ charism is hospitality, and this is such a warm and friendly environment.
The Division of Nursing’s mission reflects the mission of the University: To strive to develop a truly educated person who is value-oriented and committed to truth, service, justice and peace.