Richmond Community College, Gardner-Webb creating pathway for nurses

HAMLET — Richmond Community College will open another “pathway” for its students to pursue higher education, this time clearing the way for nursing students to earn their Bachelor of Science degrees or, ultimately, master’s degrees.

At 1:30 p.m. Feb. 5 in Cole Auditorium, representatives of RCC’s Department of Nursing and the private Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs will sign an agreement much like the ones RCC already has with Winston-Salem State University and Pfieffer University of Misenheimer, North Carolina. Called a “bridge to professional advancement in nursing,” the program will allow nurses with associate degrees and 2.5 grade-point averages to move seamlessly into further education at Gardner-Webb’s Hunt School of Nursing.

“When our students graduate, and they become registered nurses (after winning state certification), they can complete their BSNs at Gardner-Webb,” RCC spokeswoman Wylie Bell said Tuesday. When they complete their bachelor’s degrees, they may choose to move on to classes that will allow them to earn master’s degrees.

A big plus to this particular arrangement, Bell said, is that most of the classes will be online, so students will be able to wrap their studies around their work schedules.

“It will be a huge advantage” for them, Bell said. “It’s all about flexible scheduling.”

In 2008, the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit organization established in 1970 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — the nation’s largest public-health philanthopy — launched a two-year initiative to examine the country’s need for nurses. The initiative determined that by 2020, 80 percent of nurses should have four-year degrees.

Some states have made that law. New York, for example, requires that all nurses obtain four-year degrees within 10 years of receiving their initial RN licensure.

The initiative also determined that the number of nurses with doctorates should double.

Also, since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, the demand for nurses with four-year degrees has climbed as more people seek insured care.

“The Gardner-Webb RN-to-BSN partnership will provide Richmond Community College student nurses with an excellent opportunity to seamlessly continue their nursing education,” said Janet Sims, chair of RCC’s Nursing Department.

“This initiative is driven by the Institute of Medicine report on the future of nursing, which focuses on the need to increase the level of nursing education in today’s nursing workforce (and says that) ‘nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progress.’”

RCC has a number of agreements that create pathways to higher degrees, in nursing, education, engineering and the sciences, for example. Many students begin their studies at community colleges because classes are smaller and less expensive, and they can live at home.

The college also works with both Scotland and FirstHealth hospitals, and both county health departments so students can complete hands-on clinical studies.