Beginning in January, students interested in earning bachelor's degrees for the high-demand field of nursing can enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing online program from Lyon College.
Through partnerships -- including White River Health of Batesville and the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville -- and collaborations, "we have developed a cutting-edge curriculum mapped to the" latest American Association of Colleges of Nursing "essential domains, competencies, and sub-competencies," said Becky Le, director of Lyon College's Department of Nursing.
Although students are online, they will still be engaged in practical experiences throughout the curriculum, enabling them to perform and demonstrate their knowledge, skills and attitudes.
"It sounds tough, but it is possible," Le said.
Lyon College's foray into the online nursing program comes at a time when Arkansas is roughly 9,000 nurses short of meeting care demand in the state, according to a report released earlier this year that was commissioned by the Arkansas Hospital Association.
The report, compiled by GlobalData PLC -- a data analytics and consulting company headquartered in London -- noted demand for RNs is expected to grow by roughly 8% by 2035, "primarily driven by the projected increase in Arkansas's eldest population age groups."
The online BSN isn't Lyon's only attempt to meet health care needs in the state. The college is also launching the state's first dental school -- alongside a veterinary school -- with hopes to begin offering classes next year or in 2025 in Little Rock.
THE ONLINE PROGRAM
"We do this through virtual reality, digital clinical experiences, local or virtual health field trips, value clarification exercises, clinical judgement self-reflections, preceptor/faculty evaluations, group dialogues, presentations, scholarly papers, case studies, clinical encounter notes, electronic charting, etc.," Le added.
"Students will have the opportunity to use the nursing process in assessment of individuals, families, communities, and health care systems, [and] these hands-on assessments will develop into initiatives that improve patient outcomes at all levels."
The pre-nursing entry pathway of this new offering prepares students for admission to a Registered Nurse licensure program and completion of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, according to Carol Langston, Lyon's director of college communications. Based on completion of admission criteria, students may begin Lyon College courses before, during or after entering a nursing licensure program, and 40 block credits will transfer from the RN licensure program to Lyon College.
If Early Admission/Pre-Nursing Entry Students have completed all general education requirements for the Associate of Applied Science in nursing with a cumulative GPA of 2.75, plus nine credits of nursing courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, they can apply for concurrent enrollment, Le said. That means they could graduate with an AAS in nursing and BSN at the same time.
The second pathway -- post-nursing entry -- is designed for nurses who have already earned the RN qualification and professional licensure, according to Langston. This completion program builds on and expands established nursing knowledge, skills and attitudes while providing research-based nursing science, principles of nursing leadership and a liberal arts foundation. As is the case with the pre-nursing pathway, 40 block credits will transfer from the RN licensure program to Lyon.
Nurses have a high standard of expectations for learning as demanded by the public, hospitals and all stakeholders, so nursing is a rigorous program, and "our accrediting body, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, requires our curriculum to be competency based as described by the" American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Le said.
"Nursing educators are challenged to develop a curriculum that allows students to progress through self-evaluation, peer-evaluation, preceptor-evaluation, and faculty-evaluation, [and] all of these learning activities are measured through the acquisition of competence in nursing domains that encompass modern day nursing knowledge, skills, and attitude requirements," she said.
Lyon's program has been approved by the Higher Learning Commission and has initial approval from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education to pursue accreditation, Le added. "Our initial cohort is planned to serve 10-12 students," but administrators hope to add students in future cohorts and can accommodate 20 students per class.
At $355 per credit hour with no additional fees, this "innovative program" costs less per-hour than a traditional full-time, in-person experience and creates more flexibility for working adults, according to Langston. Applications are now being accepted at lyon.edu/nursing.
The new program "is a testament to our commitment to advancing healthcare education," Provost Kurt Grafton stated in a news release from Lyon. "This program will empower our students to elevate their skills, enhance patient care, and make an even greater impact on our Arkansas communities."
Hospitals staffed with 80% BSN-prepared nurses had nearly 25% lower odds of inpatient mortality compared to those with only 30% BSN-prepared nurses, according to the AACN.
BSN-prepared nurses have abilities that benefit patients and health care providers, demonstrated by 24% greater odds of survival among patients who experienced in-hospital cardiac arrest, 10% lower odds of death in patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and 32% decrease in surgical mortality cases in hospitals that increased their proportion of BSN-prepared nurses over time.
"We want to allow students to maximize their employment opportunities and expand the numbers of BSN-prepared nurses in our workforce," Le said. "These degree programs save lives."