Bluffton graduate becomes nursing director
Bluffton’s final RN to BSN graduate is leading the new nursing program at Bluffton University.
Maybe it is kismet, maybe it is karma, but whatever it is, some force seems to keep pulling Dr. Sherri Winegardner, director of nursing and associate professor of nursing, back to Bluffton.
“I never would have anticipated this,” said Winegardner. “It’s a dream come true to come back to the community I grew up in. What goes around comes around.”
Winegardner is reviving the RN to BSN program she graduated from 25 years ago. A 1991 graduate, Winegardner believes she is the final BSN graduate to walk across the stage to receive her diploma. The original program ran from the late 1970s to the early 90s.
Winegardner graduated from Bluffton High School and became an RN after graduating from Lima Technical College. She describes herself as a life-long learner. “As I looked ahead to my career trajectory, I always knew that I wanted to get my doctorate in nursing education,” said Winegardner. That’s exactly what she did. Upon graduating from Bluffton she earned master’s degrees from the Medical College of Ohio and the University of Phoenix and a doctorate from Duquesne University.
She was the program administrator for Brown Mackie College’s nursing program in Findlay when the Bluffton University position was posted.
“Wow, what an opportunity to return to Bluffton, to restart the same program I was such a proponent of, this is the perfect opportunity,” said Winegardner.
Winegardner walked around campus the day before her interview. It was an emotional experience.
“I was walking past Founder’s Hall where my high school and college graduations took place and reminisced about graduation day and my friends and going to basketball games,” said Winegardner. “Even in high school, I spent a lot of time here at the university—going to the library and eating lunch at Marbeck.”
Now that she has the job, Winegardner is infusing modern lessons and ideas into the curriculum.
“There’s a big push for area hospitals and other providers to hire nurses with bachelor’s preparation. It’s an excellent fit for the university and this area needs a nursing program with additional flexibility,” said Winegardner. “Our program can be completed in two years, but it allows for up to four years to obtain the RN to BSN.”
However, Winegardner also wants to emulate some aspects of the original program.
“The nursing professors were fabulous. Their emphasis on academic scholarship made the program so strong. They set the stage very well for me to continue on to graduate education,” said Winegardner.
“There’s a big push for area hospitals and other providers to hire nurses with bachelor’s preparation. It’s an excellent fit for the university and this area needs a nursing program with additional flexibility."