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Nursing in the Aspirus System:
Strategies to Achieve 80% BSN

Over the last year, the CNO group within the Aspirus system has systematically pursued strategies to increase the percentage of BSN nurses within our system.  We began with the formulation of our strategic goals last summer.  One of the goals was to develop a plan to facilitate the attainment of an 80% BSN workforce.  That goal was to be achieved over the next year (summer 2015 to summer 2016).

Two of the business unit CNOs and our system CNO volunteered to spearhead the attainment of this goal on behalf of the 8 hospitals within our system, as well as the clinics and post-acute care.  One of the first steps was to determine our baseline of nurse education preparation by entity, so a spreadsheet was developed showing the percentage of nurses who had attained the various levels of educational preparation.  As expected, since most of our facilities are in the more rural areas of central to northern Wisconsin and in the upper peninsula of Michigan, the percentage of ADNs was high.  It ranged from 48% to 73% across the system.

Next, a multidisciplinary team including representation from human resources, finance, education & legal was convened to partner with us to conceptualize our approach.  Legal assistance was necessary and beneficial as a number of the Aspirus entities have collective bargaining units and it was important to ensure our design was consistent across the system. The collective wisdom and contributions of this group was invaluable.  We determined our approach would be to first educate our Corporate Executive Council (CEC) about the IOM Report and evidence now proliferating in the nursing literature.  The CEC consists of the CEOs of the system hospitals plus the system CEO, CMO, CIO, and CNO as well as other Aspirus leaders.  After the initial meeting to present the case for BSN completion and its impact on improved patient outcomes, we would return with the “ask” for funding.  PowerPoint presentations were developed and presented in December 2015 and January 2016.  We made a third appearance at CEC in March 2016 to address questions and present additional data that was requested, including the financial impact to each business unit and to the Aspirus system overall.  There was a request to incorporate a strategy to quantify this ROI over time.

Ultimately, we received approval to provide up to $12,500 per RN who enters the program, which is capped at a set number or cohort of nurses per facility per year.  For example, the largest hospital in the system can fund up to 30 nurses each year, while the smaller critical access hospitals can fund 4-6.

As part of the initiative, a new Tuition Reimbursement policy was created and approved at the system level.  An application packet was also created.  It is anticipated that this will be a competitive process because of the cohort limit and a finite budget.

After approval by CEC was obtained, we began meeting with area Schools of Nursing (both ADN and BSN) to inform them of our good news and to gain their input and support.  All have been gracious with their time, talent, and suggestions and have partnered with us to assure the success of this initiative.

As this article is being written, a computerized learning module is being created to educate all of our nurses about the IOM study and to inform them of the enhanced tuition reimbursement program.  We are also partnering with representatives of the schools of nursing (BSN & ADN) to hold our very first “BSN Completion Fair”.  This will be piloted at one hospital, then after further refinement will be rolled out to the entire system.

It is our hope that our story and experience will inspire other hospitals and systems to embark on a similar journey.  While we will not attain an 80% BSN workforce by 2020, we will be taking the steps necessary to get closer to that goal in the next decade.  We are confident that the time and dollars spent pursuing the IOM goal will result in improved outcomes and safety for the patients cared for within the Aspirus system.

For more information, contact:
Peggy Ose, VP-Patient Care/CNO, Aspirus Riverview Hospital Peggy.Ose@Aspirus.org   
Deanna Wilson, VP of Patient Care Services/CNO at Aspirus Ontonagon Hospital  Deanna.Wilson@Aspirus.org


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