Texas Woman’s University (TWU) plans to expand its nursing program through a collaboration with Alvin Community College (ACC) in an effort to provide a more direct path to a nursing degree and reduce the cost of earning one.
The collaboration with ACC will launch in the spring of 2021 and students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average for all required courses, including the nursing classes.
“It builds on the strengths of the community college and it can create a lot of collaboration,” said Dr. Rosalie Mainous, dean and professor of the College of Nursing at TWU. “And that’s what we’re trying to encourage in the state. We are collaborating, we all have the same end goal and this is a good example of it.”
The innovative nursing program was first established by TWU at Gainesville’s North Central Texas College (NCTC) in 2018, and the first cohort of students graduated in May with both an associate degree and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
To be admitted into the joint program, potential students must be accepted into the Associate Degree Nursing Program at NCTC as well as in the TWU Bachelor of Science in Nursing Blended program. Acceptance is based on GPA, Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) score and the overall completion of TWU’s nursing prerequisites such as microbiology, according to NCTC’s website.
Usually, though, students first acquire an associate degree in nursing and then apply to a Registered Nurse-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program for the move to a Bachelor’s nursing degree. Between these degrees, many choose to go into the workforce and practice as nurses. On average, it takes 18 to 24 months to earn a bachelor’s nursing degree after graduating with an associate degree.
“What we’re aiming to do is to help more students complete their baccalaureate degree quicker, which gets them into the field of nursing and into hospitals with that baccalaureate degree in a more timely matter,” said Dr. Jo-Ann Stankus, assistant professor and coordinator of the Registered Nurses Bachelor of Science and Master of Science program at TWU.
According to Stankus, states and hospitals have been pushing for more nurses with a bachelor’s degree. The Institute of Medicine released a report in 2010 recommending that the healthcare workforce increase the number of registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree to 80% by 2020.
In TWU’s nursing program, students take their associate degree and baccalaureate bridge nursing courses at the same time. The program allows students to complete both degrees within four years. Upon graduation and before entering the workforce, students are required to take their National Council Licensure Examination to officially become licensed nurses.
Mainous said one of the benefits of partnering with community colleges is being able to reduce the overlap between required courses in a typical associate degree and bachelor’s degree program.
She said when she studied nursing she had to repeat courses she had done as part of an associate degree in the bachelor’s program. “By collaborating from the very beginning, you’re reducing that. You don’t have the time between the degrees, and you get through quicker.”
TWU’s expansion comes at a time when the healthcare workforce is overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce projected that around 200,000 nursing positions, or one in eight of these positions, will go unstaffed in the country this year.
Prior to the pandemic too, nursing positions remain unfilled. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, by the year 2030, Texas is projected to have a deficit of 60,000 registered nurses and 5,000 nurse practitioners.
“I’m looking forward to what this collaboration is going to produce,” said Mainous. “And, you know, I think it’s going to be good for Texas.”
Sarah Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.