1. Akright, Jan A. RN
  2. Crabtree, Jenna L. MBA

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At Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences, student feedback is heavily valued and captured in a variety of ways. Along with course evaluations, the college holds town hall meetings and group luncheons with the senior class to gather student feedback and ideas in person. At one recent luncheon, students shared concerns regarding courses at the senior level, which they felt had repetitive content. The seniors felt a change in course structure was needed and recommended changes they thought would benefit students.

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Through our shared governance structure, we began to investigate the feasibility of the suggested curricular changes. Senior-level faculty, who have direct ownership of the senior courses, began the process of initiating the changes. The senior faculty then sent their changes to the college's curriculum committee to allow all faculty to provide input. The curriculum committee consists of both faculty and students, which allows the students to take ownership of the changes made by offering input and having voting power. The final stop for the changes was the College Senate.


Although shared governance in an academic setting is slightly different from a healthcare setting in regards to voting, it allows key stakeholders to be involved with the improvement process. This is just one of many examples of how shared governance is used in our school.


College shared governance

Shared governance is a structure in which the decision-making process is owned by the individuals who'll be putting these new practices into place. This allows these individuals to take accountability, responsibility, and ownership of decisions.1 Although shared governance is typically referenced regarding nursing practice, the college has adapted it to higher education. The college has a long-standing culture of shared governance that reflects how its committees are structured.


The college's overall governing committee is the College Senate, which comprises faculty, staff, and students. This committee determines academic goals, develops and implements the curriculum, evaluates educational programs, ensures the quality of instructors and their instruction, assesses student performance, and institutes related changes. Shared governance is an essential part of the College Senate, which welcomes ideas and suggestions, and gives voting members the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process.


The College Senate has six standing committees: academic, curriculum, employee development, research, student development, and the master of science in nursing (MSN) program. Each committee is charged with an area of responsibility for which it oversees functions, policies, and procedures and makes recommendations to the College Senate for approval.2 Committees consist of key stakeholders, including faculty, staff, and students.


The college bylaws define who has voting power on the committees, but everyone has a voice. This voice is an important part of our shared governance structure. We encourage discussion and welcome a variety of ideas from everyone on the committees. We may respectfully agree to disagree on some topics; however, at the end of the day, decisions are made with the students' best interest as the focus. Faculty, staff, and students who serve on these committees seek best practices when making changes, improving processes, and developing policies. We empower all who participate to use their voices and share their opinions. This empowerment leads to faculty, staff, and students having a sense of ownership of policies and processes.


For example, the college's mission and vision were redeveloped using shared governance. An ad hoc committee consisting of faculty, staff, students, and administrators evaluated the purpose and long-term goals of the college while keeping within our shared governance structure. The final product resulted in an updated mission: to "provide excellence in professional nursing and healthcare career education."3 The new mission better reflects the college, encompasses its values, provides the underpinning for branding, and allows for future growth with allied healthcare education.


In another example, the college established a food pantry through shared governance when it became apparent that some students were experiencing food insecurities. Known today as the Caring Cupboard, the food pantry continues to receive steady donations. Anyone is welcome to use it as needed, even faculty and staff. Today, the student development committee oversees the Caring Cupboard and reports monthly on its usage.


We strive to provide excellence by continuous process improvement through input from faculty and staff, as well as students. We truly value students' high level of engagement within the college. Student input has led to great changes to enhance the excellence we provide. For example, student members on the academic committee played a vital role in revisions to our probation and dismissal policies. Most recently, students participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement. The results showed high student engagement, with all seniors saying that if they had to do it all over again, they would choose Blessing-Rieman. Our shared governance structure has allowed us to enhance this engagement, welcoming student input into the decision-making process.


Continued growth

As the college grows, shared governance will continue to be ingrained in our culture. It's the reason we've doubled our size over the years, improved processes, increased student satisfaction and engagement, and had the ability to continue to provide excellent professional nursing and healthcare career graduates for our community. If implemented correctly, shared governance can be used for not only nursing practice, but also in the education of nurses and healthcare professionals.




1. Guanci G. Shared governance: what it is and is not. 2018. Association for Nursing Professional Development. [Context Link]


2. Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences. 2018-2019 Employee Handbook. Quincy, IL: Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences; 2018. [Context Link]


3. Blessing-Reiman College of Nursing and Health Sciences. 2018-2019 Program Catalog and Student Handbook. [Context Link]