Opening a New Nursing Education Program: Lessons Learned

Monday, 9 November 2015

Betsy M. McDowell, PhD, MSN, BSN, RN, CNE
Department of Nursing, Newberry College, Newberry, SC, USA

In the Future of Nursing report (IOM, 2010), one of the key recommendations was to increase the proportion of baccalaureate and higher degree-prepared nurses in the nation’s workforce to 80% by 2020.  One of the barriers to preparing more baccalaureate-prepared nurses is a dearth of open seats in existing nursing education programs.  Many established nursing education programs would like to expand but lack the fiscal, faculty, and/or clinical resources required to accomplish this.  In 2006, a private, church-affiliated, liberal arts college in the southeastern US partnered with a nearby medical center to open a new generic baccalaureate nursing program.  An experienced nurse educator, the presenter, was hired initially as a consultant and then as the inaugural chair of the nursing department to implement the generic BSN program.  Approval to open the prelicensure program was obtained from the State Board of Nursing in spring of 2009 and the first nursing courses were taught at the junior level in the fall of that year.  Subsequently, initial national accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education was obtained by the program in the next year.  The first class of BSN-prepared students graduated from this program in May 2011 and all graduates were licensed and employed in nursing by the end of that year.  The program continues to admit one class of 24 new students to the junior NUR courses each fall semester and graduates one class of baccalaureate-prepared nurses each May.  Alumni of the program have gone on to graduate school to become nurse practitioners, have served as preceptors for nursing students, have taken travelling nurse assignments across the US, and/or have earned Nurse of the Month recognition.  The program will be expanding this year by adding an RN to BSN Completion track in the fall.  The purpose of this session is to explore the lessons learned through this journey so as to delineate several best practices when opening a new undergraduate nursing education program.  These lessons also could be helpful to nursing education programs seeking to expand existing capacity.  Observations from faculty, administrators, students, alumni, and clinical partners are incorporated in the presentation to illustrate this journey.