Casey Shillam named director of Western’s bachelor’s degree in nursing program

Casey Shillam has been named director of Western Washington University’s new bachelor’s degree program in nursing.

The nursing program, offered through Western’s Woodring College of Education, begins fall 2013. It is designed to allow associate-degree nurses who have completed their pre-licensure registered nurse (RN) studies to complete their bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN).

“We are very excited to have Dr. Shillam joining the Western team,” Woodring College Dean Francisco Rios said. “She has the experience, the education, the energy and the vision to assure that our bachelor’s degree in nursing exemplifies the quality Western is known for demonstrating.”

Shillam, hired after a nationwide search, will begin at Western in July.

“I am delighted for this wonderful opportunity to contribute to advancing the profession of nursing. Western’s new nursing program will provide enormous benefit to both nurses and to quality health care throughout the area. This collaborative, interdisciplinary program will address the critical demand for BSN-prepared nurses in the face of a rapidly changing healthcare system,” Shillam said.

Shillam, who will be a tenured faculty member at Woodring College, will lead the nursing program that will be grounded in regional needs and will enhance the health and well-being of many of the communities Western serves.

Shillam has extensive experience in clinical nursing practice, health care policy and nursing education. She has bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing from the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California (UC)-Davis.

She is now assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, and was previously an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Portland. Other experience includes past service as the nurse co-lead of the California Action Coalition, part of the nationwide Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative to implement recommendations in the landmark Institute of Medicine report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” Currently, she serves as a consultant to the Campaign for Action led by AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and coordinated through the Center to Champion Nursing in America. The campaign includes 51 state Action Coalitions and a wide range of health care providers, consumer advocates, policy-makers, and business, academic and philanthropic leaders. 

Shillam is a registered nurse, and her clinical nursing experience includes nursing case management for clients in assisted living facilities, home health care nursing and staff nursing in a skilled nursing facility. She has published extensively on nursing and nursing education.

The new nursing program 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. Classes are scheduled to meet one day per week on Western’s campus. Western is collaborating with a number of partners, including PeaceHealth/St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College and Skagit Valley College.

A number of studies link better patient outcomes in facilities having greater percentages of more highly prepared nurses with bachelor’s degrees. One of the key recommendations of the Institute of Medicine report is that 80 percent of the national RN work force hold BSNs by 2020.

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.

Western’s innovative RN-to-BSN program responds to these local, state and national recommendations to increase the proportion of BSN-prepared nurses through seamless academic progression between associate degree and BSN-completion programs.

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