Sharpening Their Skills

Tyler Neilsen, Staff Writer

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Nurses are the fiber of healthcare. Whether it’s a simple blood draw at your annual physical or an extended stay at the hospital, they’re the heartbeat of the clinics and hospitals. But as hospitals face financial cuts, nurses are struggling to find jobs. And although there was a nursing shortage a decade ago, that is no longer the case.
Now, nurses are encouraged to advance their skills in order to improve their odds of securing a job. Beginning in the fall of 2013, Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) will add an RN to BSN program that will allow nurses to do just that.

RNs (registered nurses) have a two-year nursing degree while BSNs (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) have a four-year degree. “Within the healthcare industry there is a recommendation for more highly educated nurses and to increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020,” said Jan Loft, interim dean of the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at SMSU.
Loft explained that this program will give RNs the opportunity to build upon existing knowledge and skills while advancing their education. The advance in education would increase the likelihood of promotion into nursing management. Beyond that, it will aid nurses who want to work in intensive care units. In fact, more hospitals are actually requiring a bachelor’s degree for hire.
SMSU has now begun accepting applications to the program and will hire a Director of Nursing by January 2013. The RN to BSN program has been approved by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Once classes have begun, SMSU will apply for accreditation with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

“We are planning on a class of 25 RNs in the fall of 2013 and another class of 25 in the Spring 2014 semester,” said Loft. The degree requires 120 credits, 60 of which will be transfer credits. Administration encourages applicants to enroll now so that they can begin work on the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum and the Liberal Education Core curriculum. Much of the courses will be online with occasional on-campus class work.

Students will gain expertise in patient centered care, inter-professional teams, evidence-based practice, quality improvement, patient safety, informatics, clinical reasoning/critical thinking skills, genetics and genomics, cultural sensitivity, professionalism and practice across the lifespan of an ever-changing, complex healthcare environment.
Students will also develop knowledge and skills in leadership, quality improvement and patient safety, professional nursing practice, information management and patient care technology, healthcare policies, communication and collaboration skills, and health and disease prevention.

With multiple two-year RN programs in the region, the RN to BSN program gives SMSU a desirable niche. “This program is crucial for an RN to have access to advanced educational opportunities in order to ensure a quality workforce for the healthcare industry throughout southwest Minnesota,” said SMSU President Ron Wood.
SMSU will not only provide extensive opportunities through this addition, it will also promote the advancement of education. Quality of care and professionalism are achieved. Furthermore, the very fiber of healthcare is strengthened.