by Joelle Moran
Dr. Aida Sahud knew at an early age that she wanted to do something meaningful with her life. For her, that meant a career in nursing.
When she was eight, Sahud’s father, who was an accountant, took her to work with him at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago. After seeing the nurses in their uniforms and where they did their important work, she knew she wanted to be a nurse someday. That desire was confirmed after Sahud’s grandfather had a stroke when she was 16, and she spent almost every night with him at the same Mount Sinai Hospital.
"I liked the idea of taking care of people," she said. "I liked the idea of having really meaningful work. That’s what propelled me into nursing."
Now, as director of nursing at Adams State College in Alamosa, Sahud has helped develop a four-year BSN program to bring a more meaningful and advanced education to nursing students in the San Luis Valley. The new program is in addition to the college’s RN-to-BSN completion program.
Adams State started its first cohort of 25 students in the new BSN program in January.
Sahud said the program meets a critical need for the rural area of southern Colorado, which previously offered students no other options for nurses who wanted to pursue a traditional four-year BSN.
"The community has waited 30 years for this program," she said.
Nursing students will complete clinical rotations at various hospitals in the San Luis Valley, other parts of Colorado and New Mexico.
In addition to overseeing the department, Sahud teaches Rural Community Health Nursing and Rural Community Nurse Theory, which are essential for training nurses to work in rural areas like Southern Colorado.
"I really talk a lot about the difference of what the needs are in a rural area compared to an urban area," Sahud said, adding that rural areas often must make do without all of the research and resources of urban areas.
"Nurses in small hospitals have to wear many hats and take on many roles," she said.
There are also big differences in the populations served, she said. For example, urban people are more often insured and willing to go see a doctor, whereas people in rural areas are not anxious to seek medical care, sometimes creating additional health problems.
"There’s kind of a strong independent sense around here," Sahud said.
The nursing program has about 50 students, but there are goals to grow the RN-to-BSN program with more online courses. Sahud said surveys of the community show that students want a hybrid program, combining face-to-face and distance learning.
Adams State is also on the verge of opening a state-of-the-art simulation lab with several local partners.
The college, along with Trinidad State Junior College, San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center and Valley-Wide Health Systems, got a $377,000 federal grant for the equipment to create a clinical nursing excellence program at the lab.
Construction of the lab is being partially financed by a $100,000 grant from Caring for Colorado that was awarded to Adams State College, with the college funding the remainder of the construction.
Housed at Adams State, the hospital-like lab, which is nearly complete, will be equipped with programmable high-fidelity mannequins that will allow faculty to make learning situations very real.
"The mannequins are so high tech that we can program them to have a variety of different diseases and symptoms," Sahud said.
"Students can learn a whole lot about a person and the disease before they are in the lab and do their homework and know what’s expected of them as nurses.
"In a lot of cases, especially in rural areas, we can teach things we don’t often see."
In her more than 40-year career in nursing, Sahud has worn many hats and seen many things.
She graduated from a three-year diploma program at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago in 1964, and earned her BSN from Sacramento State University in 1978.
Sahud started her clinical work in medical/surgical nursing and then had her own family and became interested in childbirth education.
She became certified by the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics to teach what later became known as the Lamaze childbirth education method. She lived in San Francisco and worked with patients in their homes and in the hospital to prepare and guide them through childbirth.
"I really liked doing that," Sahud said. "I was much more suited for community-care nursing than acute-care nursing. I liked the independence and the freedom of going out and seeing people in their homes."
After becoming heavily involved in community health outreach, Sahud earned her MSN from the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center with a focus on community and mental health in 1980.
From 1980 to 1985, she worked as a community outreach educator and taught community health nursing at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. She attended the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health from 1986 to 1989, earning her master’s and doctorate degrees in public health. She returned to teaching community health, as well as gerontology, at the University of San Francisco from 1989 to 1992.
From 1993 to 1995, Sahud served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, where she continued her mission of health education outreach.
Before coming to Adams State in June 2007, she started a new master’s program at Holy Names, owned and operated a hypnotherapy/guided imagery practice in Berkeley and worked as a district public health nurse.
Sahud is excited about Adams State’s future and is proud of its dedication to teaching students. The school’s small nursing classes mean students are known by their names and not numbers by a staff that is very caring, she said.
"Our philosophy is to support our students to succeed," she said. "We are very optimistic about our students that they will succeed as long as they are doing their share."
For more information about the nursing programs at Adams State College, call 719-587-8258 or go to: www.nursing.adams.edu.