By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, interim editor-in-chief
It’s not always easy for a nurse with an associate’s degree to obtain a baccalaureate. Many may have families to care for or support. Financial and time pressures can be considerable. The part-time community college model is great when it comes to obtaining the associate’s degree, but then many who want to advance find the door closed: they can’t afford the higher tuition at a local private school offering the baccalaureate, or they can’t travel from a rural community to an urban center where a city or state school is located, or they need to do a portion of their coursework on a part-time basis. With such barriers in place, how will we ever solve the nursing shortage?
These problems are being addressed. Last week I had the opportunity to speak with several faculty from the program in nursing at Queensborough Community College (QCC), City University of New York, including Tina Iakovou and Marge Riley, both assistant professors; Anne Marie Menendez, chair of the program; and Lucy O’Leary, a “student success advocate.” The meeting took place at the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing in New York City. Also present were Christine Tanner, a distinguished professor at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), and Marilyn DeLuca, formerly of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence.
We were there to discuss the unique collaboration QCC has with Hunter-Bellevue, one based on a model developed by Tanner and colleagues in Oregon. Tanner was chair of the Oregon Nursing Leadership Council when it developed a strategy to address Oregon’s nursing shortage. The plan created the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education, a collaboration of five community colleges and the OHSU to create a “seamless” program and curriculum to allow nurses who’ve achieved an associate’s degree from any of the participating community colleges to continue working towards a bachelor’s degree and stay in the community. If any of you have ever tried to get credit for courses taken at one school accepted by another school, you’ll know how wonderful this is.
What’s the key? I asked Tanner what was the key to getting everyone to agree to one curriculum. She said the key was that everyone “was willing to abandon the premise that they were representing an individual constituency and instead focused on what was best for Oregonians and for nursing.” She said it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but the overriding goal—having enough nurses in state—won out over parochial interests.
The Hunter – QCC program is one of two (the other is in North Carolina) using the Oregon model and funded through the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence. The folks at QCC echo this philosophy of taking the time to build relationships—it took politicking within the school system to reassure folks that the baccalaureate program wasn’t trying to “take over” and that QCC’s curriculum and students were a good match.
The QCC-Hunter program did improve on the Oregon model by adding O’Leary’s position as “student success advocate” to provide mentoring for students; Oregon has since added a “transition adviser.” In North Carolina, they have added a nurse recruiter who does outreach to high school students.
The Center to Champion Nursing in America at AARP is working with government and private groups to highlight the successes various states have had toward increasing the nursing workforce. You’ll be able to read more about this in the series, “Uniting States, Sharing Strategies,” which will debut in AJN in January.
(Note: two editorial errors in this blog post have now been corrected: Marilyn DeLuca is not affiliated with Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, as the post originally stated, and she is not currently working for the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence, as the post implied as well.)