RN to BSN: Opening the Gateway

Monday, 7 July 2008
Susan C. Davidson, EdD, RN , School of Nursing, University of TN at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN
Katherine S. Lindgren, PhD, RN , School of Nursing, University of TN at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN
Rachel Dinsmore, BA, BS , NEPR Grant, Univ. of TN at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN
Rodger Ling, BA , NEPR Grant, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN

Learning Objective 1: identify activities related to the recruitment, advisement, and mentoring of RN-BSN students in the Gateway program.

Learning Objective 2: assess and evaluate the hybrid online/classroom format through the student implementation survey process.

The nursing shortage makes it imperative that nursing education programs be designed to enable RNs to remain at the bedside while providing them with an opportunity to gain increased skill and knowledge that the BSN affords. To fulfill these responsibilities and achieve optimum patient outcomes, more nurses prepared at the BSN level must be available to the public.

Surveys conducted among associate degree and diploma nurses as well as Chief Nurse Executives in the region indicated the need for an alternative career ladder RN-BSN program. With funding from a 3 year HRSA grant, the RN-BSN program was redesigned to eliminate duplication of content and clinical practice experience achieved by the practicing registered nurse. Students complete the curriculum as a cohort, which allows them classroom time with other working RN peers. Taking into consideration the career, home, and academic responsibilities of RN-BSN students, the program is offered in a hybrid online/classroom format, alleviating onerous time commitments for class attendance while allowing some face to face interaction among students, in a manageable fourteen-month timeframe.

Built into the RN-BSN program is a matrix of support for students, including a Project Manager, an IT Coordinator for technological support with the university's distance learning platform, and a Critical Friends mentorship program led by representatives from each of the three major local healthcare facilities. These Critical Friends leaders, who are RN-BSN program alumni, provide ongoing mentoring, problem solving and peer support to those in the cohort. Furthermore, to guide the development of the program into one that best meets the needs of working RNs and upholds the objectives of the program, students are surveyed upon admission, after each course module, and upon program completion. These evaluations will also be used to compare outcomes of the RN-BSN program with that of the generic BSN program.