Initiative paves way for UTMB nurses to obtain BSN degree

Mar 21, 2016, 08:20 AM by Stephen Hadley

From left: Catalina Bekkema and Shelito Alviza, both registered nurses working at UTMB, will be among the first group of students to graduate from the School of Nursing’s RN 2 BSN Award Program in April.

For registered nurses, providing care to patients has become increasingly more complex over the last decade.

From making critical decisions about patients who are sicker and more frail to dealing with a host of issues that require significant training in analysis and synthesis of extensive patient information, registered nurses are dealing with a rapidly evolving health care system.

To better equip nurses to handle the rigors of their changing workplaces, the Institute of Medicine in 2010 recommended that a more educated nursing workforce was the answer. In fact, the organization called for 80 percent of registered nurses to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree by 2020 to better prepare them for careers in the profession.

UTMB has had an RN to BSN program since the 1980s, according to Carol Wiggs, PhD, associate professor and the RN-BSN track administrator. But the newer iteration of the program—which takes place over two semesters with classes held online—is focused on providing education that makes nurses bedside leaders.

Thanks to the RN 2 BSN Award Program launched last year, selected UTMB RNs are provided upfront tuition and required books to attend the UTMB School of Nursing for the two-semester program.

“The Health System initiative was to have 50 of our UTMB registered nurses who have associate’s degrees to go through our RN to BSN program over the next two years to get their bachelor’s degrees,” Wiggs said.

The first 23 students enrolled in the RN 2 BSN Award Program are set to graduate in April. The next group of UTMB RNs will begin classes this fall.

“Our program is not like other RN to BSN programs,” Wiggs said.“Our focus is on leadership, patient safety and quality outcomes, and that’s what makes it unique.

The nurses who complete the program are grounded in evidence-based practice. They have a broader knowledge of what’s going on in health care and a more holistic view of what’s going on with an individual patient that goes beyond just a set of skills. They truly become leaders, and that’s where the future of nursing is headed.”

The RN 2 BSN Award Program is specifically geared toward UTMB-selected nurses who have already completed their prerequisite courses for their bachelor’s degrees and are approved for the UTMB School of Nursing’s RN-BSN program.

To qualify for the Awards Program, an employee must be a full-time UTMB RN without a nursing bachelor’s degree who has worked at UTMB for two years or more at the time of their application to the program. In addition, Awards Program applicants must agree to work at UTMB for a minimum of two years following completion of the RN-BSN program.

The program itself has been crafted to vastly expand the knowledge base of practicing nurses, Wiggs said.

The 10 courses in the two-semester program are focused on providing the four knowledge components needed by a baccalaureate-prepared nurse: professionalism and theory, research, community health, and leadership.

“This education takes the registered nurse to another level,” Wiggs said. “I don’t just go in a patient’s room and give them a pill or a diagnostic test. I know why I’m doing it, what the expectations are and what I’m going to look for. It really is educating nurses to have a deeper understanding of a patient’s health and determining a way forward to improving their health.”