Campus Sustainability Spotlight

January Spotlight: Kirkhof College of Nursing

The Kirkhof College of Nursing (KCON) at Grand Valley is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and recognized for outstanding teaching, scholarship, service, and research. The Kirkhof College of Nursing is located in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Sustainability & Nursing
While the public may not think of nursing when the term “sustainability” is first raised, a nurse will tell you that this topic is a central concept within the profession. As Public Health Nurse Julie Graham says:  “Nurses have a natural fit with sustainability.  They dedicate their professional lives to making the lives of others and their communities better.  Healthier.  Nurses are highly trained professionals whose doctrine is founded in holism.  Nursing has a long history of identifying maladaptive behaviors and manifestations in individuals and communities and planning then evaluating measures for continual improvement” (Source, 2011).  

The GVSU sustainability webpage identifies four factors for development.  Here are a few examples of how they relate to nursing practice:

  • Environmental stewardship, restoration, and renewal – Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing, identified environment as a key issue in the health and well being of people.  Starting with her efforts to improve the air quality in medical facilities during the Crimean War, nurses continue to respond to environmental illnesses although they are more likely to be related to urban sprawl and pollution.
  • Social conditions and quality of life – Social issues, called upstream factors, are the precursor to the development of most public health concerns that are part of the practice for a Community Health Nurse. Using Healthy People 2020, established goals for the United States, the Community Health Nurse assesses a community, then develops implements and evaluates programs to address key health indicators at the population level.
  • Economic vitality and overall fiscal sustainability - The US spends more on health care than any other industrialized high-income country.  Addressing and reducing costs is a well-known problem within our health care system.  The nursing profession is the largest health care profession in the world and as such has a significant impact on how care is given.  All nurses work to include economic sustainability into their own practice and the profession.
  • Cultural capacity and collective diversity, heritage, and intrinsic value – Cultural competence is defined as the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to provide quality care to diverse populations (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2008).  Given the needs of a multicultural nation, nursing educators have embedded these skills into the educational process at baccalaureate and graduate levels.  The Kirkhof College of Nursing is no exception.

KCON Vision and Strategic Plan
The mission of the Kirkhof College of Nursing is to provide quality nursing education to a diverse population of students. Kirkhof College of Nursing strives to improve the well-being of people through leadership in nursing education, professional practice and scholarship. Keeping sustainability in mind is one way we achieve our mission.  In the Strategic Plan for the College, goal 3.4 reads:   “By 2015, KCON nursing curricula will include an emphasis on the concept of sustainability as it relates to health and healthcare delivery.”

Substantive progress has been made with the undergraduate and graduate programs undergoing revision in the last three years.  The courses itemized at the bottom of this page demonstrate the importance of this goal for the College. 


Kirkhof College of Nursing Centers of Distinction
Centers of Distinction bring together individuals with like interests. The goals are to:

  • Provide an environment for developing and/or expanding the knowledge base
  • Promote integration of the interest area in research, teaching, service, and practice
  • Promote the translation and application of research-based knowledge
  • Mentor new scholars in skills for research, teaching, service and practice
  • Enhance collaborations with practice partners
  • Provide a forum for interdisciplinary scholarship

There are four distinct Centers of Distinction. They are:

The Aging Population: Best Practices
The focus of the center is to improve the quality-of-life of older adults through the integration of programs in research, teaching, service, and clinical care.

Human Response in Health and Illness
The focus of this center is on prevention and treatment of disease, improving quality of life, self-management, symptom management, palliative care, and caregiving needs.

Reforming Health Care Delivery and Education
The focus of this center is on outcomes in health care and health policy; and educational initiatives that impact health care reform.

Vulnerable Populations: Best Practices
The focus of this center is on health disparities and recognition of the impact of race/ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status, disability, and culture on health outcomes. 

Professional Standards
As noted above, Nursing as a profession has widely embraced the concept of sustainability for many years.  Both ecological and health-affected issues are attended to in the professional sphere.  For example, ecological issues are addressed by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in the webinar “Greening your College of Nursing: from the Student Experience to the Business Office with handouts on energy use, environmental preferable purchasing, recycling, toxic chemicals and waste streams in health care.   (Webinar available here.) Health concerns from practice, education and research perspectives were reviewed by the Institute of Medicine in its seminal publication Nursing, Health and the Environment, in 1995.

Since then, the impact of environmental health has been widely studied in nursing.

Ongoing Sustainability Programs

The Family Health Center
The mission of the GVSU Family Health Center is to provide accessible, quality healthcare for individuals in need, and promote an innovative learning environment through an academic nurse-managed approach. The Center provides services to individuals across the lifespan, families, and the overall community. Nurse Practitioners provide wellness care and health screening to promote early detection of illness/disease, allowing for timely intervention.

The GVSU Family Health Center, located at 72 Sheldon NE, is an educational experience for graduate student’s completing their Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP).  Precepted by the Center’s Nurse Practitioners, students learn to provide holistic health care to all age groups.  Both uninsured and underinsured clients are welcome at the clinic as are those with traditional insurance coverage. 

Community Health Service Learning

While both the undergraduate and graduate programs incorporate community-based learning, the undergraduate program has spread the courses throughout the program. One credit of each clinical course is devoted to a community focused learning experience.  Students begin by looking at care of the individual client in the community and progress through care of families, aggregates and communities.  By the end of the program, students are able to demonstrate both community- based and public health care competencies.  Over 20 community sites are used for various experiences including agencies such as Disability Advocates of Kent County, Kent County Community Health Department, Mt. Mercy Senior Housing, the Southwest Area Neighborhood, Ferguson Apartments and The Dwelling Place.

Care for individuals with environmentally based diseases
Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) are often the first health care provider prepared to provide primary care, and as such may diagnose diseases that are the result of environment.  Respiratory illnesses such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and allergies may occur in both rural and urban environments. Even obesity may develop from social issues such as neighborhood safety, recreational opportunities, economic status, and access to nutritious food.   Hypertension, an unhealthy increase in blood pressure, can develop from unhealthy eating, stressful environments and social habits such as cigarette smoking.

Office and Employee Activities
Employees and students are encouraged to participate in the campus recycling program and recycling bins are placed generously throughout the CHS building. In addition, used printer cartridges are collected and recycled.

Nursing students have taken a pledge to use the stairs instead of the elevator! It’s a healthy and GREEN option.

The Dean requested that all faculty and staff avoid running space heaters in their individual offices as a way to maintain consistent temperature and stabilize the thermostats on our floors.

Faculty and staff are using Blackboard and email as their primary way of communicating with students.  In addition, more and more meetings are paperless as agendas, minutes, and other pertinent documents are emailed out to beforehand and participants are expected to bring their laptops.


Members of the Office of Student Services staff have attended a number of Inclusion and Equity trainings that provided insight and awareness in and sensitivity towards various diversity issues. A staff member completed a course in Intercultural Competence as a way to increase awareness and better serve our diverse student population.

The Student Nurses’ Association volunteered almost 2000 hours during the Fall 2012 semester in the local community. They have built community gardens, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, read to school children, gave flu shots, and donated their time and talents to numerous health organizations.


The SNA organizes opportunities for students where they can buy and sell used nursing uniforms.

Sustainability Related Courses
In KCON, emphasis is placed on the social justice aspects of health and health care throughout our coursework. Additional emphasis and dedicated research is evident in community health nursing in the undergraduate program, and throughout the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, where the course, Health Issues in Vulnerable Populations is required of all students.  Advanced practice track DNP students spend a great deal of time caring for older adults, uninsured, underinsured and “special needs” populations such as impoverished children and chronically mentally ill individuals. Students in the Administration track DNP students learn the roles of nurse executives in a variety of health care settings, including facilities for the care of older adults, mentally ill individuals, and those who have developmental challenges, as well as clinics that serve uninsured and underinsured clients. Students in either track may implement evidence-based practice dissertation projects that address issues that impact these vulnerable populations (e.g., nutrition, health care access).

Undergraduate Courses
NUR 267, 317, 367, 417, and 467 - Each course has a 1 credit community experience.

NUR 266, 316, 366, 416, and 467 - Each course has content designed to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for policy and advocacy.

IPE 407/507 - This interprofessional education course is for students from various health professions who work together to assess and plan client care.

Graduate Courses
NUR 676 - Health Perspectives: Mental Health

NUR 625 - Health Issues in Vulnerable Populations

NUR 792 Seminars (Scholarly Inquiry in Nursing Practice I) - (Includes introduction to community-based participatory research.)  Students develop projects with such groups as the PATHWAYS prenatal project, Muskegon high risk pregnant women, Evergreen Commons, a senior community center in Holland, Michigan and the CATCH Program, an afternoon program with Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation.

Page last modified June 17, 2016