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Baylor University’s FastBacc students tackle 2-year curriculum in 1 year

Friday August 8, 2014
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Nan Ketcham, RN
Three semesters, 62 credit hours and one intense way to accelerate a nursing career: That’s how Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Waco, Texas, sells its 12-month FastBacc
BSN program.

The course load and schedule for the several dozen FastBacc students are rigorous as the five-year-old program schedules all of the classroom and clinical work, save for one elective class, that Baylor’s traditional nursing students do in two years into one May-to-May term. But the graduation rate for FastBacc students is even higher (97%) than for students in Baylor’s traditional nursing program, according to FastBacc coordinator Nan Ketcham, RN, MSN. And besides leaving with a bachelor’s degree, 99% are employed by the time they receive their nursing license, typically 90 days after graduation, Ketcham said.

“I tell them, ‘I have you for one year, and then you’re going to touch a million lives in your career,’“ said Ketcham, who has been at Baylor since 2006 and helped develop FastBacc in 2008. “The return on investment for you as a person will be you’re in the workforce six to eight months earlier than
other people.

“We have not had to advertise our program; it’s all been word of mouth,” she said. The program graduated 37 students in May, its largest class to date. Forty-eight students, out of around 105 applicants, just began the 2014-2015
FastBacc program.

Baylor launched the program, Ketcham said, both out of a competitive need to attract nontraditional students and in response to an increasingly apparent need in Texas for a more-educated nursing workforce, with training especially in geriatrics. When FastBacc started, it was the only 12-month BSN program in Texas. Since then, competing programs have launched.

Ketcham said FastBacc’s emphasis on in-person classroom interaction and faculty-led clinical instruction sets it apart. “Face-to-face contact is very important,” she said. Though an online-focused program might be offered as a FastBacc option in the future, it would not become the exclusive model for FastBacc.

The FastBacc program, designed for individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline, attracts a diverse group of applicants, Ketcham said.

Some are career changers looking to get into a field they view as more rewarding and boasting more job opportunities. Some already work elsewhere in healthcare. designed for individuals who have completed a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. Ketcham told of one student, a chiropractor, who was motivated to apply for FastBacc out of frustration that he couldn’t treat patients’ underlying medical issues, such as the diabetes causing their back pain. But all students are highly motivated individuals eager to kick-start their nursing career, Ketcham said.

Whether they’ll move on directly to employment in hospitals or other healthcare facilities or begin work on an advabnced-practice degree, FastBacc students are told, “This is your first stop.”

“Our philosophy at Baylor is our students learn, lead and serve,” she said. “Nursing is much more than a 12-hour shift three days [a week] at a hospital ... everywhere you go, you’re a nurse.”


Julia Roland, RN
What goes into Baylor’s FastBacc program?

What goes into a one-year, 62-credit-hour BSN program? A lot. The FastBacc program at Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing incorporates all of the coursework of the school’s two-year BSN program, minus an elective requirement.

The first class students take when they begin their 12-month term in May is a nursing foundations class; that’s followed by a class on conducting a health assessment on patients.

Theory and clinical skills and geriatrics classes, as well as a clinical component, round out the 10.5-week summer term. The fall term starts with pharmacy classes, mental health instruction and a 12-hour hospital shift each week. Students take a community and cultures class in the second half of the fall term. In the spring, focus areas include pediatrics and obstetrics and, during the last seven weeks of the term, a capstone theory class.

Can students be adequately prepared to jump into a nursing career after just 12 months? Ketcham said Dallas/Ft. Worth-area healthcare employers seem to think so. “When someone tells them they’re in the FastBacc program, they’re getting jobs,” she said, adding that participation in the rigorous program demonstrates to employers students’ dedication.

Julia Roland, RN, a FastBacc graduate, was working in communications at a senior care center in Dallas when she decided she wanted to pursue a nursing career.

“I looked for the quickest program I could find,” Roland said. The pace of FastBacc and the strong reputation of the Baylor name, she said, made her decision a clear-cut one.

“There’s always that, ‘Can I handle this?’” Roland said. But the program was “very doable,” she said. FastBacc instructors were “really there to help you succeed,” whether by offering support in the clinical setting or writing letters of recommendation toward the close of the program. Roland, received her BSN and is working at Baylor-Garland in Garland, Texas.


Christine LaFave Grace is a freelance writer.Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.