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UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing and All Saints Hospital, Racine, Collaborate to Offer Innovative RN-to-BSN Program

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Future of Nursing Report (IOM, 2011) recommends that 80 percent of registered nurses have a BSN degree by the year 2020.  The IOM recommendation is based on the higher level of knowledge needed to care for complex patients, as well as evidence that notes improved outcomes for patients cared for by nurses with higher education levels. The Wisconsin Center for Nursing 2014 RN Workforce survey of all registered nurses licensed in Wisconsin noted that 44.1% have a baccalaureate degree and another 11.7% have a master’s degree or higher.

Multiple studies suggest that barriers to BSN completion include cost, time, family commitments and lack of employer support. Motivators to BSN completion include decreased length of program, tuition reimbursement and encouragement from employers and family members.  Because the demand for highly educated nurses is expected to outpace most other occupations over the next decade, we must continue to find ways to remove barriers to the BSN degree.

The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) College of Nursing is committed to removing barriers to baccalaureate nursing education and has been offering a RN-to-BSN completion program for more than twenty-five years.  UWM offers one RN-to-BSN curriculum in three modes – BSN@Home (online), BSN@Work and School (on site) and the UW-FLEX Option (online competency based). All program options are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

All Saints Hospital in Racine, Wisconsin is a 355 bed acute care hospital with approximately 700 nurses.  One goal of the hospital is to increase the number of nurses that have a baccalaureate degree.  To support that goal, the decision was made to prefer hiring nurses with a Bachelor’s degree.  However, a nurse can be hired without a degree, but the expectation is to obtain the baccalaureate degree within three years of hire. 

Nurses at All Saints have many opportunities to continue their education in nursing.  Online education can be an excellent method but for many, it does not provide the face-to-face interaction that many learners prefer.  The Racine-Kenosha area is also rich with local universities offering classes on campus, but for All Saints nurses, this requires additional travel time.  Zeb Koran DNP, MSN, RN, Vice President of Patient Care and Nursing Practice at All Saints wanted the staff to have the option of taking BSN completion classes right on the hospital campus.  Dr. Koran felt this option would encourage enrollment and minimize travel but more importantly result in a cohesive group that could share the experience of additional education together.  Dr. Koran reached out to the UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing and a collaborative RN-to-BSN program option was created. 

A RN-to-BSN cohort model program, BSN @ Work was begun in 2015 as a collaboration between the UWM College of Nursing and All Saints hospital in Racine. The first cohort of fifteen RN students began in January, 2015 and a second cohort of twelve students was added in September of 2015.  RN students take face-to-face classes on site at All Saints one evening per week.  All courses are taught using a blended seven-week model which allows students to earn six undergraduate credits in a traditional fifteen-week semester. A dedicated UWM College of Nursing outreach advisor meets with students on-site at All Saints to help them to create their course plans. Course faculty include UWM College of Nursing faculty as well as All Saints nurse leaders. Students will complete their final semester capstone clinical practicum project working on a quality improvement initiative at All Saints. Feedback from both students and faculty has been very positive.

Dr. Zeb Koran of All Saints has been a champion for promoting advanced degrees for the nursing staff. Dr. Koran states:

“I am thrilled that we could partner with UWM to provide this opportunity to our nurses. They appreciate the convenience of classes being on site and the camaraderie that comes from being in a cohort. It is very exciting to watch them grow their knowledge and their dedication to the nursing profession and our patients. As a health care employer, it also helps us in our goal of increasing our number of BSN prepared nurses.  A secondary advantage that this program has provided is the opportunity for some of our Master’s prepared nurses to experience teaching.  Those that have participated found it very rewarding and we have others that are waiting for the opportunity.”

Program contacts:

  • Kim Litwack PhD, RN, FAAN, APNP, Interim Dean at the UW College of Nursing at the UW-Milwaukee
  • Barb Daley PhD, RN, Interim Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing
  • Lisa Mihlbauer MS-Nursing, BSN, RN, IBCLC, CNE, Director of RN-to-BSN Completion Programs at the UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing
  • Zeb Koran DNP, MSN, RN, Vice President of Patient Care and Nursing Practice at All Saints Hospital in Racine, Wisconsin

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