Rowan/UMDNJ program the right medicine for BSN candidates

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College students have been known to needle their professors from time to time
College students have been known to needle their professors from time to time.

For Virginia "Ginny" Wilson that could be a problem.

Wilson, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, NE-BC, is director of the joint Rowan University/University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Nursing Program, which in August changed its administration from the Stratford-based UMDNJ School of Nursing to the Rowan campus in Glassboro. And her students pretty much wield needles on a daily basis.

The RN-to-BSN program partnership, which started in 2003, is designed for RNs with an associate's or diploma degree who want to complete their bachelor's degree and possibly go further with their education.

This fall, 40 students are enrolled in the joint program, which is housed in Rowan's College of Professional & Continuing Education. Wilson - who started as director in 2006 - teaches along with two other instructors: a nurse with two doctoral degrees and a master's-prepared nurse practitioner.

"The goal at Rowan is to maintain the partnership, but we shifted the focus to better serve the needs of the South Jersey nurses and the South Jersey health care community," said Wilson, who lives in Mantua Township.

That focus is putting more of an emphasis on undergraduate studies and including graduate studies, with seven of nine Rowan classes at the undergraduate/BSN level. Those classes include comprehensive health assessment, health care policy and finance, and research applications in nursing. The program, which integrates teaching, research and community service, also serves as a stepping stone for nurses who want to pursue a master's degree in their field. Two additional classes - pathophysiology and pharmacology - are graduate classes which are a core part of the program and are taken as undergraduates and count toward students' BSN and also a future graduate degree. Classes held at UMDNJ are geared to graduate, doctoral and second-career nursing students.

Rowan is offering a mix of classroom, online and combined courses, as well as community health nursing classes that provide hands-on experience at a variety of clinical sites. The part-time program, which can be completed in as little as 20 months, allows students to stay in their professional positions while attending classes.

"There's a large number of practicing nurses in South Jersey who have an associate's degree," Wilson said. "The trend is to have bachelor's-prepared nurses."

To enter the program, potential students must have graduated with a National League for Nursing-accredited associate degree, passed the Nursing Certification & Licensure Examination and hold a license from the state of New Jersey to practice as a registered nurse. (Individuals licensed as registered nurses in other states must be eligible for New Jersey State Board of Nursing licensure as a registered professional nurse.) Additionally, candidates must have a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher and a grade of "C" or higher in all nursing, science and English composition courses. (Applicants who are not graduates of a United States college or university must have a minimum score of 550 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language.) A total of 121 credits, from the associate's and bachelor's programs, are needed to graduate.

Wilson said, "The response from the community has been really, really positive."

She noted she expects the program to grow. She already is meeting with community colleges in the region to discuss a 2+2 program for a smooth transition. In such a program, nurses would take pre-licensure courses at a county college, pass the nursing licensure exam (NCLEX) and transfer to Rowan for upper division and grad courses needed to compete their BSN.

"Right now there's legislation pending in Trenton looking at a BSN in 2010 - nurses will have 10 years to earn a bachelor's degree after they earn their RN," Wilson said. "A bachelor's is being seen more and more as the entry-level point for the practice of professional nursing. Some hospitals will only hire nurses with a BSN. We're looking to continue the educational paths of area RNs."


NOTE: For more information about the RN-to-BSN program, visit www.rowan.edu/cpceinfo or call 856/256-5435.


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