By Holly Fisher
When Amelia Joseph graduated from her all-girls Catholic high school in the early 1970s, women basically had three career options: nurse, secretary, or teacher. Joseph knew from teaching Sunday school she didn’t want to pursue a teaching degree. And she was sure she would be the “world’s worst secretary.”
That left nursing. Joseph earned a bachelor of science in nursing from Southern Connecticut State University and began her professional career at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Haven, Conn. She loved the work there and stayed for eight years before moving to the private sector at a community hospital.
Eventually, tired of New England winters and high taxes, Joseph headed south for a job at the VA in Charleston. With detours to Columbia and West Palm Beach, Fla., Joseph made her way back to Charleston. Now, she’s using her years of clinical, administrative and managerial nursing to lead the new Swain Department of Nursing at The Citadel.
Initially coming on board as a consultant to get the program off the ground, Joseph was tapped to lead the department as nurse administrator in January.
She brings almost four decades of experience to the position – managing and executive nurse, nurse recruiter, group practice leader and nursing consultant. Joseph also developed several programs related to nursing students and newly graduated nurses.
Joseph has a master’s in business administration from The Citadel Graduate College and earned a doctorate in nursing science and a post-doctoral fellowship in health care workflow from the University of South Carolina.
Of all her professional roles, Joseph speaks fondly of her work at the VA Medical Centers in Columbia, Florida and here in Charleston. “It gave me a sense of mission,” she said. “What I did was important and made a difference. I was never going to stand on a battlefield and let someone shoot at me, so this is what I could do.”
She’s found that same mission at The Citadel, and it’s a nice segue at this juncture in her career.
From hospital room to classroom
After retiring from clinical care, Joseph knew she wanted to teach. But she was selective, eager to find just the right fit. That’s when The Citadel called, asking Joseph to assist with a feasibility study on launching a nursing program at the military college.
As an alumna, Joseph wanted to help, and she was interested in the project. She prepared documentation and plans for the S.C. State Board of Nursing and S.C. Commission on Higher Education. Her efforts were successful, and the program began accepting students in October 2016.
When the opportunity arose for Joseph to stay on as the full-time department head, she said it turned out to be “exactly what I wanted to do.”
Through the Swain Department of Nursing, a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree program is available to cadets and veterans. An evening program is also offered to community students who have earned the general education and prerequisite courses at another institution and want to complete their nursing degree at The Citadel.
This spring, nine students are taking their first course, and two additional full-time faculty will join the program this fall.
Joseph said there is absolutely room for another nursing program here in the Lowcountry. The Medical University of South Carolina has an accelerated program, but it is full-time, which is tough for students who need to work during the day and take classes in the evening, Joseph said.
Plus, no other national military school has a bachelor’s program in nursing.
“I think The Citadel has really filled a need there,” Joseph says.
It’s not a large program, she says, but will make a small dent in the demand for more nursing programs.
And every little bit helps in the health care industry where nurses are badly needed. “A third of all nurses will retire in the next 10 years,” Joseph said. “We’re losing bodies and intellectual knowledge.”
As she trains up-and-coming nurses, Joseph also will be preparing to seek accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. She’s confident the program will be accredited – giving that first class of nurses a solid start.
“It’s a great time to be a nurse,” she said. “Our nurses will get jobs.”