Students Begin Classes In Innovative Nursing Program

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Class began last week for the first students entering the newly minted undergraduate nursing degree program (BSN) offered by UTHSC in affiliation with Methodist Healthcare.

Memphis, Tennessee (July 20, 2005) — Class began this week for the first students entering the newly minted undergraduate nursing degree program (BSN) offered by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in affiliation with Methodist Healthcare.

Eighty-two students enrolled in the program, with 40 percent of these being African-American. This compares to a national average of only 12 percent.

Two years ago, UTHSC made the decision to re-establish and redesign its bachelor of science in nursing degree program, which had been inactive since 1998. Also at that time, Methodist Healthcare made the decision to phase out the Methodist diploma in nursing program and to support the re-establishment of the redesigned UTHSC program.

The new BSN program offers three full-time options: (1) traditional BSN, for applicants with 60 hours of prerequisite courses; (2) second degree, for applicants with a bachelor”s degree or higher in another field; and (3) the RN to BSN option, for registered nurses with a diploma or associate”s degree in nursing.

“We reinstated this program, partially as a response to the national nursing shortage. Our objective is to meet workplace demands for highly educated nurses with an innovative curriculum that will help us reach our goal for quality patient outcomes,” said dean of the UTHSC College of Nursing (CON), Donna K. Hathaway, PhD, RN. “Of particular note, is the number of minority students, which will help balance the current disparity in healthcare providers and should positively impact minority patient outcomes.”

The entry-level program offers many unique features including a strong science component, coursework in genetics and informatics, and hands-on experience in clinical anatomy with cadavers. Additionally, if they choose, undergraduate students can easily progress through multiple degree programs with no repetition in coursework The undergraduate program is being offered on the Methodist University Hospital campus; while graduate classes will be held in both Methodist and UTHSC facilities.

“One of the program”s strengths is that the faculty is actively involved in both research and clinical practice. This means our students will be exposed to leading-edge patient care techniques from professors who are conducting their own scientific investigations, as well as caring for patients on a daily basis,” noted Susan Jacob, PhD, RN, executive associate dean of the UTHSC CON. In addition to the wide range of clinical experiences that students will be able to get within the Methodist Healthcare system, UTHSC also contracts with more than 80 clinical agencies.

“Over half of the RN to BSN nursing students are currently employed with Methodist Healthcare, which also provides tuition reimbursement. Like many other hospitals nationally, Methodist Healthcare periodically experiences nursing shortages, so we intend to do everything possible to ensure that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare does not enter a crisis situation like many parts of the nation are experiencing,” said Methodist Healthcare senior vice president and chief nurse executive, Donna Herrin MSN, RN. As part of the partnership, Herrin was appointed the UTHSC CON assistant dean for Methodist Healthcare Nursing Practice.