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Rural Educational Mobility Project

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in conjunction with Southeastern Community College, Bladen Community College, Brunswick Community College, Bladen Community Hospital, Scotland Healthcare System, and Columbus Regional Healthcare System is proposing an RN to BSN Educational Mobility Program in Nursing.  Nursing, like all health professions, has a unique place in society (ANA, 2010).  As the complexity of health care, global, social and economic structures continue to increase in complexity, it is critical that nursing disavows removes its hierarchies and separating forces to converge as a profession capable of meeting and expanding its professional role.  These hierarchies and separating forces are often driven by the education structures that have created barriers within the profession, especially for those in rural settings and in areas of limited economic resources.  The proposed educational mobility has been designed by the participating partners to address these barriers and provide a clear, seamless pathway for success.  The nursing departments of University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP), Southeastern Community College (SCC), Bladen Community College (BCC), Brunswick Community College (BCC), Bladen Community Hospital (BCH), Scotland Healthcare System (SHS), and Columbus Regional Healthcare System (CRHS) have partnered for this purpose.  In order to achieve the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) goal of 80% of nurses in the region holding a BSN or higher by 2020 (IOM, 2010), nursing institutions must collaborate to not only develop a program, but also provide enrichment resources to promote educational achievement. Thus, these partners, an associate degree granting institution, a baccalaureate degree granting institution, and the largest nursing employer in the county, are committed to collaborate to reach the goal recommended by the IOM.

The objectives of this project are to:

1.         Recruits students for a RN-BSN completion program to be held offered by UNCP at SCC, Bladen CC, Brunswick CC, BCH, SHS, and CRHS.

2.         Implement a seamless educational mobility program for nurses (new graduates and seasoned nurses) in the region.

3.         Evaluate and revise the program including the procurement of funding for the continuation of needed resources.

The RN-BSN program at UNC Pembroke requires 124 credit hours for graduation; at least 31 of these must be taken at UNCP.  The degree includes 62 hours of general education and support courses, 30 hours of validation of previous nursing education (associate degree of diploma) and 31 hours of nursing courses at UNCP.   In preparation for this project, SCC, Bladen CC, Brunswick CC and UNCP have completed a comprehensive articulation agreement.  With this agreement, a student from SCC, Bladen CC, and Brunswick CC can transfer in 62 credit hours of general education and support courses; as long as a grade of “C” or better is earned in a course.  The course, regardless of when it was taken, can be used to fulfill the requirement.

The RN-BSN track will be offered in a hybrid format which will blend online instruction with face-to-face class meetings and direct faculty/student interaction.  This hybrid approach was carefully planned and will set this track apart from the majority of the other RN-BSN programs whose coursework is totally online.    Unlike a fully online format where students and instructors are likely never to see each other, a hybrid format will provide face-to-face meetings promoting the faculty-student relationship.  In addition, in a blended program students are able to establish strong collegial relationships with their peers, a relationship that can become an important support network after graduation.  A hybrid format will better accommodate the varied learning needs of the nursing students because of its advantage of multiple instructional modalities.

Another advantage of this program design is that students will participate in carefully designed practicum experiences that will involve a partnership between regional inpatient and community-based health care facilities and the university.  The Department of Nursing currently has contractual arrangements with healthcare agencies in the region for nursing student practicum experiences. Upon completion of the program, it is anticipated that many of the graduates will assume positions in these and other healthcare organizations in rural settings.

The program will target primarily all students who have earned an associate degree or diploma from a regional community college and who work in the Columbus County region.  With the developed articulation agreement, any licensed nurse can attend SCC, Bladen CC, or Brunswick CC to complete general education and support courses; UNCP is committing to bring all other courses to the region.  The curriculum is designed to provide the nursing knowledge core recommended by American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).  Students who complete this track will meet the pre-requisite degree requirements for entry into a newly proposed Master of Science in Nursing program at UNCP.