Grant to help NIU prepare more nurses with B.S. degrees

The increased demand for nurses who hold bachelor of science degrees continues, with some organizations recommending 80% of registered nurses hold a B.S. degree by 2020. To help meet the demand, NIU’s nursing program has received funding aimed to increase the number of RNs returning to school.

Research shows patients are safer when they are cared for by a baccalaureate-prepared nurse who have greater nursing competency, enhanced critical thinking, communication and leadership skills, said Nancy Petges, assistant professor of nursing and co-author of the grant.

“The best way that nurses in academe can improve patient outcomes is by equipping our students with the latest tools based on research and evidence-based practice so that they can deliver excellent care at the bedside,” said Amber Davis, RN-B.S. program coordinator and co-author of the grant.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education Nursing School Grants Program has awarded $110,185 to NIU’s School of Nursing to facilitate RN to B.S. education. Petges said they will use the funds to focus on three areas: program quality improvement, engagement and outreach.

To reach quality improvement goals, some of the funds will be used for faculty development and acquiring a “Quality Matters” designation, the gold standard for certifying quality in online programs. Also, because NIU’s RN to B.S. degree program is online, funds will be used to create a platform that will help faculty and student engagement. Additionally, NIU used grant funds to hold a roundtable discussion with associate degree nursing programs across the state, as well as their clinical partners, for the purpose of advancing articulation agreements and exploring barriers to baccalaureate preparation in nursing.

“Information gained from this discussion will be instrumental in developing a more highly educated nursing workforce,” Petges said. 

The overall program goal is to recruit students earlier to align their academic goals with attaining a B.S. degree earlier in their careers. Developing articulation agreements with rural associate degree programs will foster this growth, Petges explains.

“We know associate degree nurses have busy schedules: balancing work, life and now further education,” Davis said.  “With the working nurse in mind, we endeavor to provide an online program that will positively impact their daily practice from the first course in the program through the last course.”  

“We anticipate by establishing a program for RN-B.S. degree completion that offers an exciting and engaging educational opportunity, we’ll possess a winning formula for encouraging baccalaureate preparation,” Petges said. “We look forward to developing this program and then sharing it with other regions in the state.”

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