Nurses in south-central Virginia who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing will be able to do so more easily thanks to a new program at Longwood University.

The RN to BSN program, set to begin in the spring 2015 semester, is designed for working registered nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing. It’s another way in which Longwood’s B.S. in nursing (BSN) program is addressing the nursing profession’s call for more baccalaureate-prepared RNs.

The program will enable RNs to earn a BSN in five semesters if they attend part time, as most are expected to do. Students also may attend full time, allowing them to finish in three semesters.

"These will be adult students, most of whom have families and are working as full-time nurses, so going part time will work best for most of them," said Dr. Vicki Martin, associate professor of nursing, who directs the program.

Martin joined the Longwood nursing faculty in fall 2011 with the task of conducting a feasibility study and starting the program. Though she has been recruiting students for only two months, her efforts already are paying dividends.

"I have six students signed up and am working on a seventh," said Martin, who previously established the RN to BSN program at James Madison University. "We hope to get around 10 students for the spring semester. Our goal for each cohort, which will begin every January, is 20 students, which I’m sure we’ll reach."

One of the places where Martin has recruited is Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia, where some classes will be offered for students in that area. Martin also will recruit at hospitals in Farmville, Richmond, South Hill and Halifax. Most employers pay for their RNs to earn a BSN.

To be eligible for the program, students must have an associate’s degree in nursing, six months’ nursing experience and a minimum 2.5 grade-point average.

"Some of the students will have six months’ experience, others 20 years, which will make for some interesting interactions," said Martin. "These students will learn from each other."

Unlike many RN to BSN programs, in which the course work is entirely online, all of the courses in the Longwood program will be a combination of face-to-face and online work.

"We learned from our needs assessment that there are a lot of ‘seasoned’ nurses in this area who are not really familiar with online learning," said Martin. "It’s important for our students to have face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers."

Flexibility also will be provided by the course format. Courses will be offered in two seven-week blocks each semester. Students can choose a part-time track of one course per block or a full-time track of two courses per block.

The program will be taught by current faculty and will not require additional resources for Longwood’s nursing department, which started in 2009 and graduated its first class in 2013. The department currently has 171 students, including 72 freshmen.

The RN to BSN program was approved in November by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). In addition to Martin, Dr. Deborah Ulmer, chair of the nursing department, and Dr. Virginia Kinman, assistant vice president for accreditation and compliance, also developed the proposal to SACSCOC.

"We’re excited about connecting with these nurses and about helping them get excited about learning," said Ulmer. "They’re always being told they need to get a baccalaureate degree, but it’s not easy. It’s a sacrifice. We value them and want to help them move forward."

The Institute of Medicine in 2010 recommended that 80 percent of RNs in clinical settings have a BSN by 2020. South-central Virginia has a higher-than-average rate of RNs without bachelor’s degrees.

"There is a wide body of literature which indicates that baccalaureate-prepared nurses lead to better patient-care outcomes in clinical settings," said Ulmer.

This is Longwood’s first degree-completion program, a program typically designed for nontraditional undergraduates such as working adults who have completed some college-level course work but have not earned a bachelor’s degree. Students will enter the program with 15 credits earned through the experiential learning credit option.

Leave a Comment