|Terri Page, Assistant Professor, teaches students in Liberty’s new R.N. to B.S.N. cohort program held at Lynchburg General Hospital.|
In its second semester, Liberty University’s new R.N. to B.S.N. cohort program is thriving as around 180 seasoned nurses further their education while working full time in the field.
According to Assistant Professor Shanna Akers, many nurses with either an associate or a hospital-based degree are now required to return to school for a bachelor’s degree.
“The Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the professional level of nursing. As the profession grows, nurses are seeing the importance of furthering their education and gaining their B.S.N.,” Akers said.
A bachelor’s degree in nursing differs from an associate degree, offering instruction on research, leadership, management and community health, she said.
“Nurses at the B.S.N. level are being prepared to not only care for patients at the bedside, but also to care for communities as well as to work in leadership positions.”
Nurses in the new cohort program, many with more than 10 years of experience, meet at Lynchburg General Hospital once a week for their nursing courses. The required general education courses are taken online.
Those nurses join the more than 1,300 students currently enrolled in the R.N. to B.S.N. track through Liberty University Online.
With 25 years of experience under her belt, Tara Painter entered the cohort program’s first class in Fall 2011 with hopes of job advancement.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” she said. “Teachers have been awesome. It has been interesting to get to know the other students. We all support each other and the teachers respond so quickly if we need something.”
Akers said the professors, like their students, are also full-time medical professionals, which helps them to better understand their students’ needs. Many of the professors also started with an associate or a diploma in nursing.
Like Painter, many nurses are finding themselves returning to school to meet the demands of their field.
In a study by the Institute of Medicine, medical practices were recommended to “increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020. Academic nurse leaders across all schools of nursing should work together to increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree from 50 to 80 percent by 2020.”
In response to this demand, Liberty’s cohort program has been tailored to the needs of working professionals, allowing students to continue honing their skills on the job while completing general education and nursing courses to earn their B.S.N.