Keene State College opens its doors to students dreaming of becoming registered nurses, and not only do students at KSC get this opportunity, but so do students in the surrounding community colleges as well.
KSC worked with the state to make the nursing program more efficient. Since nursing is a demanding field, they needed to work out a system to help students receive their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.), so they created “articulation agreements” with surrounding community colleges.
An articulation agreement is where the state tries to make it easier for students at community colleges to transfer their credits to a four-year college. The state makes sure the courses they are taking are not only being transferred correctly, but that they are the right courses to begin with. Students at community colleges can now transfer their associate degree in Nursing to KSC and work toward their B.S.N.
KSC is building articulation agreements with all the colleges in the state and there is a current agreement with River Valley Community College in Keene and Claremont. They have been delivering a registered nursing license program for the first two years, the Associate’s Degree. Students starting out at KSC can get a B.S.N. but they cannot get an associate’s degree.
“I’m very excited. I think… the conversations with the governor and the university board of trustees began years ago about the state-wide nursing shortage concern. The fact that we were able to work as a community to launch the program, that we were able to hire really, really highly qualified faculty to teach in the program and a director who is outstanding, it’s very exciting,” Dean of Professional and Graduate Studies Melinda Treadwell said. “It meets our mission; we want to focus on community health, we want to focus on meeting our community’s needs from an educational perspective and nursing is a key need, not only in the Monadnock region but in the state, and it will be in the country in the next five to ten years as nurses retire. We need a highly skilled work force in the nursing field. It feels good to feel like we are doing that here at Keene, we are actually making a difference.”
An associate’s degree in nursing covers the practices of nursing, while the B.S.N. covers the theory. Students can take their National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) with both the associate’s and the B.S.N. degree and become an R.N.
The B.S.N provides theory about the body; it describes why something is happening and what they can do about it. The associate’s degree provides the techniques to nursing; it provides the medical help to a problem alone. In laymen terms, the B.S.N goes more in-depth with nursing. Also, if a nurse is looking to specialize in a specific area of nursing, a B.S.N. degree is one step closer to that goal since a nurse has to have a B.S.N. before they can go on to get an advanced degree in specialized nursing.
“The trend and the discipline of nursing is to prepare the future work force of nursing at the bachelor level because studies have shown that students with bachelor education, there are better patient outcomes,” Director of Nursing Tom Connelly said.
The nursing program started at the beginning of this semester. Students at KSC take their general educational requirements for nursing for the first two-and-a-half years, but in January of their junior year everything changes. Classes are held in the Science Center at the moment. Students not only have to begin reaching for their B.S.N., but they have to take classes in clinical preparation, which will be held three days a week at the River Valley Community College’s laboratory on Washington Street or at the Cheshire Medical Center simulation labs. This means students have to work in the nursing field; they can either work at the Cheshire Medical Center, elder care facilities, or other health care facilities.
“I am really excited that people are looking at how we educate our students differently and thinking about what our students need. I am thrilled that there is such a student focus to this work that we are doing at this moment. It’s a little daunting to think that we might have our students in different locations across the state, that we might be online at the same time we are face-to-face in one community and still attending to the needs of our students here. I find it to be a very exciting time and really forward-thinking in higher education to be able to put these kinds of partnerships together,” Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Emile Netzhammer III said.
To get to the River Valley Community College students can take the KSC shuttle, walk, or take their own form of transportation. The entering class that will become nursing clinical is full; there are 50 students. There are 15 students in their junior year now entering the nursing clinical, which means there will be 32 slots available. If there are any qualified transfer students they will be entered into the course as well.
“I’m really looking forward to the clinicals. It’s going to be the most challenging but the most interesting,” senior Shawna Collins said.
KSC is working on making some courses available online as well as sending some KSC faculty members to the community colleges to teach, but these ideas are not yet final. These KSC faculty members would be teaching KSC courses at another school so the students can get a degree that way.
KSC not only gets to provide this new program to students, but they get to make a little money while doing it. Revenue for the college comes from three major categories: one, students pay tuition and those students from other community colleges will not be living on campus, so the school does not have to make another dorm for these extra students; two, if the school decides to put classes online they, again, will not have to make another dorm and will still get tuition money; and three, if the school decides to send faculty to community colleges they will not have to pay for lights, the building space, or anything and students will pay tuition.
“Success and keeping with the mission of the college that is so beautifully inscribed on the pillars, ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve.’ It’s really the nursing program’s intentions to prepare students to go forth and serve the healthcare needs of whatever community they live in,” Connelly said.
Kaitlyn Coogan can be contacted at email@example.com.