DECATUR -- The Millikin University Nursing Program has watched the number of nurses in its RN to BSN program drop, while seeing the overall shortage of nurses at area health facilities rise.
In response, this fall Millikin will offer the program online for the first time and is taking applications now.
“We have some applications, and we want more,” said Dr. Marcena Gabrielson, Millikin’s Online RN to BSN coordinator.
The RN to BSN program allows licensed registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing to further their career by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Graduates can find more lucrative jobs, move into nursing leadership positions or continue their education to become advanced practice nurses or doctors.
The program takes one year to complete for full-time students, though part-time options are available.
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Millikin has had the RN to BSN program for several years, offering it through the PACE program, which holds evening and weekend classes for adults trying to earn their degree while working full time.
But Dr. Pam Lindsey, director of Millikin’s School of Nursing, said with enrollment declining, the department’s faculty decided to try something new.
“That program is offered for registered nurses who have typically graduated from an associate degree program at a community college, and they’re wanting to go on to complete their bachelor’s degree,” Lindsey said. “Almost all of them are working full time with family obligations, so the evening format doesn’t always fit them.
“This will make it more accessible to them.”
Millikin wasn’t the only one hoping to get more nurses involved in the RN to BSN program. Local health organizations are in constant need of nurses, particularly ones with more education.
The American Nurses' Credentialing Center (ANCC), an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, gives out “magnet status” to hospitals that meet certain standards in quality of nursing, and education is a factor.
“To get the designation, a certain percentage of nurses have to have their bachelor’s,” Lindsey said. “A big reason is that there was a study by a nurse researcher that looked at patient outcomes, and hospitals that had a higher majority of BSN prepared nurses had better outcomes.
“We talked to the hospitals here about this program, and they’re thrilled about it.”
Gabrielson said classes in the program focus on developing management.
“There’s an emphasis on leadership, and I think for hospitals looking for BSN-prepared nurses, that’s attractive,” Gabrielson said.
Lindsey and Gabrielson helped establish the Online RN to BSN program at Illinois State University, so they’re experienced in converting a program from classroom to online. Gabrielson said neither prospective students nor prospective employers should have the perception that online degrees are less than traditional ones.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that online offerings aren’t as rigorous -- that’s not the case,” Gabrielson said. “They’re on par with face-to-face.
“The point of offering the class isn’t to make it easier; it’s to make it more accessible for students who can’t make it to evening classes.”
Lindsey said the advantage of Millikin’s program is it gives the online experience but still has the traditional staff that online-only universities don’t.
“We still have a brick-and-mortar place with faculty advisers they can meet with if they want to come on campus and meet with someone face-to-face,” Lindsey said. “They can have that personal relationship with the faculty if they choose to.”