College of Nursing Introduces New 12-Month BSN Program

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Starting this fall, the UTHSC College of Nursing BSN program will transition to a 12-month program of study. (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC).

Beginning this fall, the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will transition it’s BSN program into a 12-month program of study.

“We are so excited to move toward our 12-month, concept-based curriculum. Faculty, staff, and leadership have been working for well over a year to bring this new innovative program to our College of Nursing,” said Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-BC, FAANP, dean of the UTHSC College of Nursing. “This program will graduate baccalaureate-prepared nurses not only quicker into the field, but also with a better critical thinking skill set. Our goal is not only to meet the needs for nursing in our community, but to do this at a high level, providing the best outcomes for our patients.”

The new program will take the current curriculum from the traditional nursing education model that is content focused to a concept-based program of study.

“The direction for nursing education has really been toward a concept-based educational process and curriculum,” said Randall Johnson, PhD, RN, BSN program director for the UTHSC College of Nursing. “So we are in the process of implementing a concept-based curriculum. We are working to align concepts and the examples that go along with those concepts in our new curriculum with what we currently have, making sure we cover the necessary items in preparation for students and student success.”

Many benefits are linked to a concept-based curriculum model, including higher rates of retention, encouragement of critical-thinking skills, elimination of repetitive courses, and most importantly, increased clinical reasoning skills and clinical application.

“When you go to a concept-based curriculum, you look at overarching concepts that may apply to several disease processes and then you teach to those concepts,” Dr. Johnson said. “You are covering more of the decision making and the process that the nurse would go through.”

Going forward, BSN applicants will be required to have a baccalaureate degree, allowing the program to change from its current 17 months to 12 months. The cohort that started in August will be the final class under the old curriculum and the college is now recruiting and accepting applications for its 12-month BSN program through January 15.

“Part of the underlying premise behind the new program was to fill the nursing shortage more quickly, but also it lays the groundwork for everyone to be at the same level with the baccalaureate degree requirement,” Dr. Johnson said. “This is an intense program, and you have to be ready to hit the ground running. So we want to be sure we have qualified students who will be successful in the program.”

The BSN program is set up so students can continue their education at UTHSC, should they want to pursue an advanced degree through the college’s DNP and PhD programs.

“Our outcomes and focus are on innovative leadership and creating innovative leaders in our program,” Dr. Johnson said. “Overall, we want our nurses to be evidence based, and we want to also be sure they are making strides in their professional behaviors and interactions in the profession of nursing so they continue to contribute to the community, both in the area of service and in leadership. We are really trying to cultivate that type of individual in our nursing program.”

A new partnership with Neighborhood Christian Centers allows BSN students to work with vulnerable populations to promote health and wellness. BSN students are also working with Libertas School of Memphis, an inner-city charter school, to provide health screenings.

Meet the New BSN Program Director

Randall Johnson, PhD, RN (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

Dr. Johnson has been a nurse for more than 30 years in pediatrics, pediatric critical care and rehab, and adult and pediatric trauma intensive care, working with nationally known hospitals, including Texas Children’s Hospital and the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Ohio.

He joined UTHSC after serving as chair and associate professor for the School of Nursing at the University of West Florida in Pensacola for more than three years. He has held leadership roles at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, where he served as assistant dean for the Graduate Nursing Program, and at Advent University of Health Sciences, where he was responsible for the oversight of 500 students in the RN to BSN program.

He is active in numerous professional organizations, including Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and the National League of Nursing. He serves as a pediatric content editor for Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology.

For questions about the BSN Program please contact the UTHSC College of Nursing at 901.448.6128 or call toll free at 1.800.733.2498.