When the College of Nursing and Health redesigned its RN-to-BSN Program, faculty and administrators wanted to create a program focused on the future of nursing. To accomplish that goal, they set their sights on creating a new curriculum that could help mold the nurse of the future.
“There is one word to describe what that person looks like, and it is all around leadership,” said Ann Stalter, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing and the director of the RN-to-BSN Program.
The RN-to-BSN Program is designed for Registered Nurses who have an associate degree or diploma in nursing to complete a BSN that accommodates their typical work schedules. Students may complete the program in as little as 15 months. All courses are held online. An agreement with CONH’s academic partners, including Sinclair Community College, allows students to take their first course at CONH before they are licensed.
“The nurse of tomorrow, in so many ways, is not the nurse of today,” said CONH Dean Rosalie Mainous, Ph.D. “Our RN-to-BSN Program offers an incredible opportunity for practicing nurses, many of whom are experts in their field, to prepare themselves for leadership in the evolving health care landscape.”
Developing leadership skills
The new RN-to-BSN Program is focused on developing students’ leadership skills, transitioning a licensed nurse into the professional world and giving nurses the tools and knowledge to help consumers navigate a complex health care system. The curriculum includes courses concentrating on leadership, evidence-based practice, public and community health, and holistic health.
“We need nurses who can quickly access information, who can monitor people using state-of-the-art (technology), who can navigate health care systems because it’s going to be very, very complex,” Stalter said.
“Whether it is knowledge required based on QSEN, Magnet status, or the Future of Nursing report, graduates from our RN-to-BSN Program will be prepared to shape the health care environments in which they work,” Mainous said. “They will be highly desirable in the marketplace as the knowledge, skills, and competencies required in contemporary practice will become ingrained and ready for application.”
Emphasizing leadership in nursing in the curriculum is also vital when you combine a nationwide nursing shortage with looming Baby Boomer retirements. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 1.2 million new nurses will be needed in the United States by 2020 to replace those who will retire and to meet demands of our aging population.
Students in the newly conceptualized RN-to-BSN Program will learn about advocating for patients’ insurance and Medicaid reimbursements, working with local government agencies that affect public health, examining public policies, and helping improve environmental health.
Stalter describes the program’s approach as “holistic nursing” that includes addressing preventative care and environmental health. People often seek out care when they are in crisis, Stalter said, and “what we want to do is prevent that crisis from ever happening.”
“If we can spend our time and energy improving people’s lives and outcomes, as opposed to finding people in crisis and trying to rehabilitate them to a better life, then it’s a better use of resources overall for everybody,” she said.
The program also addresses problems in the nursing profession, including sleep deprivation, stress, obesity, substance abuse, and mental health. Stalter says it’s important to teach nurses to take better care of themselves.
CONH began redesigning the program a few years ago when Wright State University switched from quarters to semesters. As part of that transition, the college started introducing improvements to the program’s curriculum, including placing all courses online and ensuring the program was friendly toward working nurses.
“In that process, we discovered that we could even do a better job of meeting needs of working nurses as well as anticipating the region’s need to meet the health care consumer,” Stalter said.
The new iteration of the RN-to-BSN Program includes a complete redesign and upgrade of online courses. Static, PowerPoint-based lectures are being replaced with video and interactive courses that students watch on an attractive, clean-looking website.
“Any way we can find to increase student engagement, increase student learning, those are things we want to do,” said Stephanie Triplett, RN, CCRN, clinical instructor of nursing.
Last semester, Triplett taught Pathophysiology, one of the first upgraded courses. She brought life to her PowerPoint lectures by turning them into video presentations and by creating features that encourage students to engage with the lessons.
“By making the visual component of the course more interesting and more interactive, it should engage the students more” than a traditional passive online course, Triplett said.
Jamie Kuhlman, a student in the RN-to-BSN Program, said the curriculum is pertinent and applicable to current nursing practice and appears to be evolving as nursing practice evolves. “I have already instituted what I have learned thus far in my nursing practice,” said Kuhlman, an RN in Good Samaritan Hospital’s Emergency Department.
She described the course material as clearly research and evidence-based, with a goal of preparing students for the next step, not only in their careers, but also in their education. “This program already has me looking to the future for my MSN,” she said.
CONH faculty know that adding interactive components to the online courses improves student learning outcomes. Preliminary data from studies by faculty show that students are applying lessons to clinical practice and that student satisfaction is very high, Stalter said.
Best-practice examples and evidence-based practices have been integrated into courses by employing case studies based on real scenarios. The case studies also include plots that are written in a fun manner to make students want to know what will happen next.
“It meets the course objectives in a very unique and creative way,” Stalter said.
More importantly, basing case studies on reality encourages students to solve problems that they can then use in their jobs.
“We’re not just teaching nurses to be nurses, not just transforming their lives with an education,” Stalter said, “we’re teaching them to transform the lives of those they touch.”
“Nursing education is in a rapid state of change,” Mainous said. “We believe we have responded to the needs of the practicing RN with this redesign, which is cutting edge, transformative, and engaging.”