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Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: October 9, 2012 1:36:50 PM PDT
Western’s Woodring College to Offer Bachelor's Degree Program in Nursing
Program Focuses on RN Nurses with Associate's Degrees

Contact: Paul Cocke, director, WWU Office of Communications and Marketing, (360) 650-3350; Paul.Cocke@wwu.edu

BELLINGHAM – Western Washington University’s Woodring College of Education will offer a new program next year that will allow nurses to complete their bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN), Woodring College Dean Francisco Rios announced today.

The new program is designed for associate-degree and diploma-prepared nurses who have completed their pre-licensure registered nurse (RN) studies. It will provide RNs in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties the opportunity to continue their professional education to the bachelor’s degree level, along with structure to support students’ ability to balance school with busy work, family and personal lives. 

“We are proud to serve as the academic home for the program.  It is a tangible reminder that the health of students, families, schools and communities is central to the work of any college of education,” Rios said.

The program is a collaborative effort involving Western, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, and Whatcom Community College (WCC), Bellingham Technical College (BTC) and Skagit Valley College (SVC). The three colleges all offer associate’s degrees in nursing. A collaborative work group representing each of the partners is developing innovative curriculum for the new program. Course work will focus on enhancing  knowledge and skills in leadership, health care policy, patient safety and care coordination.

“We are excited about this very positive collaboration, as it’s in line with our mutual goal of improving health care in our communities. This will be an excellent opportunity for our nurses to obtain their BSNs,” said Kelly Espinoza, chief of Nursing and vice president of Patient Care Services at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham.        

The new degree program will include classes scheduled one day per week on Western’s campus, and use a combination of face-to-face and online instruction. The first cohort of 35 to 40 RN-to-BSN students will be admitted next spring and will begin classes in September 2013.

“This partnership with Western reflects Whatcom’s proactive commitment to prepare students for changing skill requirements in nursing and to graduate students who are ready to succeed in this rapidly changing field,” said Annette Flanders, director of WCC’s Nursing Program. “Increasingly, hospitals are requiring BSNs for the nurses they hire. Working with Western, we are creating a pathway for Whatcom graduates to earn the necessary advanced credentials.”

A number of studies link better patient outcomes in facilities having greater percentages of more highly prepared nurses with bachelor’s degrees. The 2011 Institute of Medicine “Report on the Future of Medicine” recommends that 80 percent of the national RN work force hold BSNs by 2020.

“This new program will be very important for the health of our community as we move toward a healthcare reform model that encourages all nurses to work to the limits of their licensure and education. In addition, providing access to baccalaureate education will allow the graduates of the Bellingham Technical College Nursing Program to gain this necessary degree on the pathway to advanced degrees as nurse practitioners and nurse educators,” said BTC Nursing Director Cindy Hollinsworth.

The Washington Center for Nursing has been urging the expansion of RN-to-BSN programs across the state as part of its Masterplan for Nursing Education. Statewide estimates show that only 51 percent of the state’s nursing work force is baccalaureate-prepared. The figure for Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties is even lower, at 45 percent.

In addition to program partners, Woodring College also developed the program in cooperation with the WWU Nursing Task Force, and Western Extended Education.

Western’s Woodring College of Education is recognized throughout Washington, and beyond, as a leader in the development and implementation of programs that prepare outstanding teachers, from early childhood to adult education; educational administration leaders; human services professionals; and rehabilitation counselors. For more information please see: www.wwu.edu/bsn

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