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N.C. program paves road to BSN

Monday May 26, 2014
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A North Carolina program aims to make the path from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree smoother for nursing students, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation news release. The end goal of the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses program is to create a more highly educated and more highly skilled nursing workforce that is better equipped to care for state residents.

Student Success Advocates, RIBN employees who work at community colleges that participate in the program, are a critical element of the program, Polly Johnson, RN, MSN, FAAN, CEO of the Foundation for Nursing Excellence in Raleigh, N.C., and head of RIBN, said in the release. “Student Success Advocates are a key to the RIBN program’s success,” she said. “Without them, I’m not sure we would have gotten very far out of the starting gate.”

SSAs have backgrounds in areas such as nursing, education and career counseling, and their role includes advising and advocating for students as they apply to the four-year RIBN program and then monitor and support their progress. “We spend a lot of time making sure these students are on track to graduation and guide them during the first three years of the dual-enrollment program,” Carol Douglas, BS, an SSA, said in the release. “Students know that they can come to us for support and guidance.”

The cost of tuition can be a barrier for associate-degree students, as can geography, since four-year nursing programs tend to be located in urban areas, which can pose access problems for nurses in more rural or remote areas, according to the release. Students also encounter the challenge of differing academic requirements at various colleges. The RIBN program aids students over these obstacles by providing a dual-admission enrollment process at several community colleges and universities; a seamless four-year curricula; and shared financial aid agreements to help with tuition costs. Under the program, students are based at a community college for three years before moving to a university to complete the baccalaureate. They also have the option during the fourth year to work part time as an RN. Students pay about $9,200 less in tuition than they would have at a traditional BSN program, and about $7,000 more than they would have had they stopped with an associate’s degree, according to the release.

Eight regional partnerships are actively involved in the program with another to come in 2015. In the fall of 2013, 190 students had enrolled in the RIBN track. The plan is that by 2020, 55 of the state’s 59 associate-degree programs and 15 of its 21 universities with pre-licensure BSN programs will offer the RIBN track, according to Johnson.

“We are advocates not just for the program, but for the students,” Mae Mills, BS, an SSA, said in the release. “We’re advocating for their success holistically, not just intellectually. It’s very much mind, body and spirit.”

RIBN currently includes nearly half of the colleges offering ADN programs and several partnering universities. The program was piloted in North Carolina in Western North Carolina between Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and Western Carolina University.

RIBN is coordinated statewide by the Foundation for Nursing Excellence with financial support from the Duke Endowment, the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the NC Area Health Education Centers Program.

The Institute of Medicine report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” recommends that 80% of the U.S. nursing workforce hold BSNs or higher degrees by 2020.


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