Indian Hills Insight

By Kevin Pink

If Indian Hills had a signature academic program in the college’s early years it’s likely nursing was that program.  And today nursing remains an integral part of the program offerings in IHCC’s Health Sciences division, the college still supplying a large percentage of the nurses employed in its 10-county area.

Ruby Holton, a registered nurse, developed a Practical Nursing program in 1962, designed to be offered in junior or community colleges to help alleviate the nursing shortage that existed at the time.

By 1969, an Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program was established at Indian Hills.  The timing for the start of this new program coincided with the decision by administrators at Ottumwa’s St. Joseph’s Hospital to discontinue their diploma nursing program, at the time the only one of its kind in all of Area XV.

Ann Aulwes-Allison, who became the department chair in 1977, says the nursing graduates in those early years had to display a great deal of competency since they were really the litmus test for the success or failure in the transition of nurses’ education moving from hospitals to colleges.

Today, the nursing program maintains its importance in the health sciences course offerings at Indian Hills.

Becca Ellingson, Department Chair, Nursing, explains that Indian Hills has what is called a “ladder” program in its nursing education.  The first year provides students with the skills and knowledge they need to sit for the LPN licensing exam.  If students opt for a second year, it consists of the advanced training required to sit for the RN licensing exam.  Students will then graduate after two years with an ADN.

Ellingson says many students prepare for the LPN exam while they are continuing with their second year of training, allowing them to work part-time while pursuing their associate degree.

“As a profession, nursing has job versatility as well as an abundance of job opportunities,” Ellingson explains.  “There are so many settings in which a person can practice nursing.  For those who like an environment where quick decisions are needed, working in an emergency department, trauma unit or as a flight nurse can be rewarding.  Nurses who enjoy getting to spend more time with individuals and families might prefer a nursing home setting or home health.  Insurance-based jobs and nursing research offer a less intense option.”

Nursing education at Indian Hills consists of classroom instruction and gaining valuable experience in clinical settings.

Ellingson says nursing is a challenging profession.  “The work is hard and the environment can be stressful,” she points out.  “A genuine enjoyment of working with people and a love of science are important aspects of the field.  Healthcare is always changing and as a result learning is necessary.  A curious and inquiring mind is important.”

Questions about the Indian Hills nursing program can be directed to Ellingson at