RN to BSN Degree

WVC seeking approval for new RN-BSN nursing degree

Wenatchee Valley College is seeking approval from the Higher Education Coordinating Board to add an RN-to-BSN degree to its nursing degree options. The RN-to-BSN, or RNB degree, would add a fourth year of courses for those students who have already graduated with their associate nursing degree. The associate nursing degree includes one year of prerequisites and two years of required courses.

WVC would partner with the Washington Center for Nursing, which was recently awarded a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to advance state and regional strategies aimed at creating a more highly educated, diverse nursing workforce. The funding is through the RWJF Academic Progression in Nursing (APIN) grant.

The grant includes three goals: to increase fluid progression for all students from associate to baccalaureate degrees through better coordination between two- and four-year public and private institutions; to develop statewide recommendations on shared nursing competencies; to support the development and implementation of at least three new RN-BSN programs in the state by 2014; and to enhance education-practice partnerships.

WVC falls within the third goal, and has been selected by the Washington Center for Nursing as one of three schools in Washington state to add an RNB program between now and 2014.

In order to ease the transition from an associate's degree to a BSN program, the college will begin phasing out the current associate's degree in nursing and add an associate in applied science-transfer (AAS-T) degree option for nursing students. Students enrolled in 2012-13 and 2013-14 will have the option of both the associate degree and the AAS-T degree. Students who earn an AAS-T degree will qualify to apply for the RNB program, though the AAS-T degree does not guarantee acceptance into the RNB program.

The AAS-T degree includes technical courses to help prepare students for employment, but also includes college-level general education courses that prepare students for their junior year in a bachelor's degree.

State approval for the RNB program could take up to two years, said Jenny Capelo, WVC Associate Dean of Allied Health. Once approved, the RNB program could be offered by the fall of 2014.

The college would receive part of the APIN grant funding to implement the RNB program. The funds can be used toward professional development, hiring a consultant, and purchasing equipment.

"The excitement is in the collaborative work and producing the first set of plans," Capelo said. "It's fitting that we're partnering with the Washington Center for Nursing, who takes on these goals."

Capelo explained that there is a statewide movement to switch to transfer degrees in nursing. Many health-care centers in the state's metropolitan areas are already requiring that job applicants have a BSN degree. The BSN degree will become predominant for entry-level work, especially in acute care, she said.

The APIN grant was created in response to the October 2010 Institute of Medicine's report, The Future of Nursing: Advancing health, leading change. The grant strongly focuses on the report's recommendation to increase the percentage of nurses with a BSN degree or higher to 80 percent by 2020.

"We're a unique applicant, because we're so isolated," Capelo said. Offering the RNB program at WVC would be an opportunity for those living in the area and seeking a higher nursing degree to remain in the area and work on the fourth year of the program, rather than commuting to a four-year school.