The Nursing Program at DMACC evolved from three separate practical nursing programs. In 1968, the Ames School of Practical Nursing merged with the area college and was relocated to the Boone Campus. The Antonian School of Practical Nursing in Carroll was united with the area college in 1970. The Des Moines School of Practical Nursing, affiliated with the Des Moines Independent School District, joined DMACC and moved to the Ankeny Campus in 1971.

These three practical nursing programs remained relatively independent of each other. Each program had its own coordinator responsible to the college's Director of Career Education. In the early 70's, nursing leadership at the Boone Campus proposed a coordinated curriculum for all three campus programs. Development of a core curriculum for both the first level of an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and the Practical Nursing (PN) program began. The outcome was the development of a "Two-Track Nursing Program", which was instituted in September 1972. This core/ladder curriculum design was one of the first to be developed in America and served the citizens of Iowa by providing nurses qualified at two distinct levels of practice - Practical (Vocational) and Associate Degree (Professional). From that time to this date, the nursing program has expanded to other campuses with one distinct curriculum for each program on all campuses.

After completion of three quarters, PN students exited and the ADN students from the Boone and Carroll campuses were transferred to the Ankeny Campus to complete the second year of the program. Advanced standing procedures were provided for the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who desired to continue their education to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

The necessity for either moving to Ankeny or commuting more than a hundred miles imposed undue stress and hardships for the Boone and Carroll students seeking an Associate Degree. In addition, there were more students interested in the ADN Program than there were spaces available in the Ankeny Campus program. To alleviate this situation and to meet the community's need for more registered nurses, the second year of the ADN Program was approved for Boone Campus in 1979.

In addition to required State Board of Nursing and Department of Education accreditation, the nursing faculty decided to seek prestigious National League of Nursing (NLN) accreditation. This accreditation would make the program congruent with national standards for Associate Degree Nursing, ease student mobility for articulating to BSN programs, and also made the program more competitive with local diploma schools. The process was initiated with the PN Program. The Council of Practical Nursing Programs granted accreditation to DMACC's PN Program in 1976. Up until the 1990's DMACC had the only NLN accredited PN Program in Iowa. In 1982, faculty began working on ADN accreditation. The ADN Program Self-Study was reviewed by the NLN Board of Review June 1985, but accreditation was deferred until progress report was completed. One stipulation was the hiring of a Director for the program. Full accreditation was granted in January of 1987, retroactive to January 29, 1986.

In 1986, the Nursing Program began exploring the feasibility of offering a part-time advanced standing program for LPNs desiring to continue their education but having to work full time. Based upon the enthusiastic response to this a program was designed and implemented at Ankeny and Carroll in the summer of 1987. Boone campus was later added.

also, about the same time (1987), a consultant was obtained to assist faculty in developing a new curriculum, which would:

  • decrease barriers,
  • promote a smoother transition form the PN to ADN track,
  • and delete duplication.

This new model was implemented Fall Term of 1989. With adoption of this curriculum, all students were given the option to graduate PN and make application to write the NCLEX-PN (Board exam). They could choose to either exit the program at the end of two terms or continue on the Associate Degree level for the final three terms. This curriculum model remained viable until the mid 90's when the health care system and nursing roles began changing dramatically. Due to these changes, a new model was designed and approved for implementation fall 1999. The first class of Practical Nursing students graduated in spring 2000 and the first class of Associate Degree Nursing students graduated in spring 2001.

In the fall of 2000, the Ankeny Campus started offering a part time option for students in a partnership with Iowa Health Systems. As part of ACE (Accelerated Career Programs) the program maintained a classroom and offices in the former Iowa Methodist School of Nursing in downtown Des Moines. This partnership allowed employees of Iowa Health Systems the opportunity to attend nursing school part time while maintaining employment. The employer supported student employees by flexing work hours and benefits. This option was also available to other students in the area who were seeking to complete their nursing education at a part time rate. In the fall of 2003, the decision was made to continue the program on an every other year admission basis even though the ACE program was phased out. Because space was limited on the Urban campus, the evening program was moved to the Iowa Building in 2010 where additional classroom and lab room was made available to the program.

A Practical Nursing Program on the Newton campus was started in the Fall Semester, 2006. The Newton campus region was found to have the highest concentration of "old-old" individuals who had a need for LPN-level care. While that region did not have the client level of acuity requiring RN-level care, Jasper County did have the need, and resources, to support PN-level education and use. Up until the fall of 2011, Newton PN graduates had to apply to another campus in order to complete the ADN Program. In 2013, the first ADN program will be offered on the Newton campus making transfer to another campus unnecessary.

The nursing program has embraced the technology age with the addition of an online program option in the fall of 2011. Thirteen students were admitted to this pilot program and are proceeding through both the PN and ADN curriculum as a cohort. Continual evaluation will be used to determine the effectiveness and feasibility of this method of delivery.

In the forty-one years since it began, the district DMACC Nursing Program has educated and graduate approximately 6,800 nursing students, the majority of whom are still practicing in the district. Ankeny remains the largest campus program graduated approximately 39 PNs and 30 ADNs yearly, Boone approximately 22 PNs and 18 ADNs yearly, Carroll approximately 20 PNs and 18 ADNs yearly, Newton approximately 13 PNs yearly and Urban approximately 11 PNs and 13 ADNs every two years.

Marine Betts, who was with the Ames School of Practical Nursing, became the Chair of the LPN program when it merged to DMACC at the Boone campus. When the former St. Anthony's program at Carroll and the Des Moines School of practical nursing joined the Boone program and later developed a common curriculum she became the Director of all three programs. In the Fall of 1971 she moved to the Ankeny Campus and was given the charge to develop the two year Associate Degree RN program. Joan VonGrabow was the chair at Boone Program, Joan Schulte was the chair at Carroll and Betty Vandenburg was the chair of the LPN program at Ankeny. Since the campuses have been combined under one Director, Susan Wager, MSN, RN; Virginia Wangerin, MSN, RN and Vickie Barth, EdD, RN have served in that capacity.