Registered nurses at Health Central have begun a unique RN-to-BSN program administrated by Nova Southeastern University. Classes are held at the hospital and online in a condensed, 18-month format and employees get assistance with tuition and textbooks.
Life has gotten more academic and the future brighter for 15 nurses at Health Central in Ocoee, Fla.
These RNs have just begun an 18-month program at the Central Florida acute care facility, where they will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from the convenience of their own workplace.
The RN-to-BSN program offered at Health Central and administrated by Nova Southeastern University is unique in many ways, which makes the option of advanced education more manageable for their employees, according to Norma Little, MHSA, RNBC, Health Central's director of education. Most RN-to-BSN programs require nurses to enter a 2-year program at the college or university. Many RNs would like to further their education and their career advancement opportunities, but finding the time to do so – and the funds for tuition and textbook costs – can be deterrents.
"We recognized that many of our AA degree nurses (RNs) come to employment really wanting to earn a bachelor's degree but it's difficult to go back to school when you're working full time," she said. "When Nova Southeastern approached us about their program, we saw it as an opportunity to help our employees succeed."
Health Central is a 171-bed healthcare system that serves a 200-square-mile geographic region near Orlando comprising west Orange and south Lake counties. The facility has 1591 employees, including 354 registered nurses and offers a full range of health and medical services.
Through the Health Central/Nova Southeastern University program, RNs will earn BSN degrees in 18 months, instead of the usual 24. Classes, which began on Jan. 2, 2007, are held both online and in Health Central's meeting rooms. The healthcare facility is fully equipped with computer labs, comfortable meeting/class rooms and full audiovisual capabilities.
Along with offering the location, Health Central also has worked to make the program more affordable for its employees. Participating employees who have been employed at Health Central for at least a year are eligible for tuition reimbursement. Little also made arrangements with Nova Southeastern to purchase the textbooks in bulk, which she then offers to the students at a 30 percent discount.
The condensed length, on-site classes and tuition and textbook assistance have made the program appealing to Health Central staff, said Little. Department heads also have helped by working with the students to make sure their work schedules give them the ability to attend classes.
"There has been wonderful collaboration by the directors of clinical areas so the students can have the work shifts they need to attend classes. Administration also has been very supportive," she said.
Another advantage for the BSN students is that the clinical requirements of the program can be "easily met" right in their workplace, said Little, adding that most of those requirements have already been met in the RN portion of the degree.
The new BSN employees will be well-positioned for advancement into management and other positions, said Little.
"We always promote nursing as a viable career choice. You can find a great deal of professional satisfaction as a nurse, whatever level of nursing you choose. With greater academic achievement you position yourself for advancement," she said. "We're helping these employees prepare for a successful career in the future."
She also believes that the RN-to-BSN program helps to sustain Health Central's commitment to a positive work environment and to attracting people to careers in nursing.
"Whenever you have a contented employee, they're going to talk about their contentment to their family and neighbors. Our nurses here can be a model to young people, to demonstrate to them that they do have the potential for a successful career in nursing," she said. "We're looking forward for 18 months to pass so we can celebrate with them when they receive their bachelor's degrees."