For decades, students have chosen different paths to become licensed nurses. Options vary from nursing diploma programs to associate or bachelor’s degrees.
Recently, more and more healthcare facilities are requiring their Registered Nurses to have a bachelor’s degree. Professionals now return to school to complete their education after years of licensed practice.
Responding to this need, BJU launched its RN to BSN online completion program. The degree track gives licensed RNs the opportunity to complete their studies in as little as 16 months.
According to the American Association for Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the nation will experience a shortage of RNs “expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows.”
Assistant professor of nursing and RN to BSN program coordinator Dr. Kathryn Wampole has experienced the shortage firsthand. She said that “nurses will always be in demand. With advances in healthcare, the average life expectancy is increasing and people are living with more comorbidities than ever before.”
Not only is there a need for more nurses in general, but there’s a high interest in RNs with BSN degrees. All nursing programs teach the basics required to pass the national licensing exam (NCLEX-RN), but the interdisciplinary courses taught in a BSN program deliver better-prepared RNs. Research has shown that hospitals with high BSN staffing have a lower incidence of post-surgical mortality and hospital-acquired infections, among other patient-care issues.
When vice provost for strategic initiatives and dean of the School for Continuing, Online, and Professional Education Dr. Beverly Cormican and her team started to develop market-sensitive programs for SCOPE, the RN to BSN completion program was an obvious first choice. For years, BJU’s BSN program has been the University’s most in-demand program among students 18 to 22 years old.
“We’re trying to reach another audience,” said Cormican. The new program’s target audience are licensed RNs who want to further their education. “The market has shifted and, in some areas, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree you can lose your job.”
The completion program offers students clinical immersion, leadership management and research courses required per the BSN essentials and per the accrediting agencies’ criteria. “Those are classes they didn’t have as an ADN or diploma nurse,” said Wampole. “The students learn nursing research and how to create change using evidence-based practice and change theories which not only helps improve patient outcomes, but also helps improve the healthcare facility’s bottom line. For RNs that want to pursue further education—such as a master’s in nursing or a doctorate in nursing—the BSN is the first step to achieve the goal.”
Most adult learners are over the age of 25, have a part- or full-time job and sometimes a family to care for. Fitting education into their schedule seems improbable. But Wampole and Cormican, who were adult learners themselves, understand the RNs’ needs.
“We’re offering RN students a flexible program option that makes it easier to complete their BSN degree in an online modality—anywhere, anytime,” said Cormican.
During the first weeks of Professional Role Transition for the RN—the first class of the program—the RNs adjust to new learning strategies.
“We realize the student is going back to school and may need help adjusting to this added responsibility,” said Wampole. From time management tips to tutorials available through Mack Library’s online resources, the program coordinator makes sure students understand the platforms before moving on.
Accessibility is extended through the rest of the program. Whenever and wherever the student needs guidance, the program staff is ready to help. “We want it to be a very good program, we want them to learn, but we also have that human side where we understand,” said Wampole. “Things happen and we’re here to help you. We’re here to be your coach, your teammate.”
As Wampole said, “(having a BSN) is a stepping stone for nurses.” Completing a bachelor’s degree can help an RN’s ministry grow and open doors.