South Jersey hospitals look to Rowan U for BSN classes; Program celebrates 1st anniversary educating RNs pursuing bachelor's degrees

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Rowan University recently celebrated the first anniversary of an educational program it founded in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry that is helping South Jersey nurses expand their education and become better prepared for the medical world of tomorrow.

Rowan University recently celebrated the first anniversary of an educational program it founded in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry that is helping South Jersey nurses expand their education and become better prepared for the medical world of tomorrow.

For more than a year, once a week from booming Burlington County to the Jersey Shore, instructors in Rowan’s RN-to-BSN program have been taking classes to the nurses where they work, first to 95 nurses at the Virtua Learning Center in Mt. Laurel and later to 30 nurses at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point.

The nurses have traded in their patients’ tests for their own in such courses as Comprehensive Health Care Assessment, Health Care Policy, Community Health Nursing and Nursing Informatics, each offered in the hospitals’ facilities.

Rowan, which instituted its bachelor of science in nursing program with UMDNJ in 2003, started with one class last spring semester at the then-new Mt. Laurel facility that serves as a home for professional development for Virtua employees.

It began offering a class at Shore Memorial in May 2009. “We started with an eight-week course so the nurses could enjoy a balance among work, life and education,” said Virginia Wilson, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, NE-BC, PhDc, director of the joint Rowan/UMDNJ Nursing Program that is housed in Rowan’s College of Professional and Continuing Education.

Instructors include Dr. Al Rundio, who is certified in nursing administration and is a former vice president of nursing care at Shore Memorial. Nurse practitioner Mary Kay Maley, a Rowan assistant professor, is one of the program coordinators. Advanced practice nurses from Virtua teach some of the clinical components there. Some lectures include all students, while the clinical sessions are as small as eight students to one instructor.

“The programs Virtua and Shore Memorial are offering their nurses promote participation and program completion thanks to convenient access,” said Wilson, who holds a master’s of science degree in nursing and is completing her doctorate. “The nurses are going through it together, so the collegial support they have in their working environment extends into the academic environment.”

Maley, who currently is teaching Community Health Nursing  for the Virtua cohort, said, “I think there are many benefits to these classes;  one in particular is that the onsite classes take away some of the fear of going back to school. The students are in classrooms with their colleagues, which gives each of them a tremendous amount of support. The students see that they are ‘all in the same boat together’.” They all work, have family obligations and now school obligations.”

“As for the students themselves,” Maley said, “I think they appreciate that they are given very individualized attention. The instructors all have similar backgrounds . . . so they understand what they are all going through. We all try to be flexible, answer their questions quickly and truly want each and every one of them to succeed, no matter what it takes.”

“I’m thrilled with the response of nurses in the community who like the model,” Wilson said. “We have the personal touch component that strictly online programs don’t have. The program has gained a reputation for balance while achieving educational goals and still maintaining a sense of community among the nurses.”

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The RN-to-BSN program 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. In addition to the Virtua and Shore Memorial nurses, another 40 nurses are enrolled in the program, and they take classes at Rowan, UMDNJ and online. The program focuses primarily on undergraduate studies, offering two graduate-level classes that provide a steppingstone for nurses who want to pursue a master’s degree in their field. Classes held at UMDNJ are geared to graduate, doctoral and second-career nursing students. A part-time offering that can be completed in as little as 20 months (121 credits), the RN-to-BSN program allows students to stay in their professional positions while attending classes.

NOTE: For more information about the RN-to-BSN program, visit www.rowan.edu/cpceinfo or call 856/256-4747.

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