Bluefield College and Southwest Virginia Community College are partnering to provide baccalaureate degrees in nursing to students and health care professionals in southwest Virginia.
During a ceremony on the SWCC campus, Monday, March 28, leaders from the private Christian liberal arts college and the southwest Virginia branch of the Virginia Community College System signed a formal agreement that will allow SWCC registered nursing graduates the opportunity to advance their education with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Bluefield College.
“We are extremely pleased to be partnering with Bluefield College on this initiative,” said Dr. J. Mark Estepp, president of SWCC. “Both SWCC and Bluefield College share a vision of preparing innovative learners who will become transformational leaders of tomorrow. In this case, both colleges focus on graduating nursing students who understand and value optimal patient-centered care.”
Southwest has offered its two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degree in nursing for several decades. Approved by the Virginia State Board of Nursing and accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, the AAS in nursing is designed to prepare students for licensure as a registered nurse (RN) and eventual service as a beginning practitioner in a hospital, nursing home, health department, physician’s office, clinic, home health agency, or other health care facility.
In an effort to build on that RN education and to provide a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree opportunity for students and health care professionals of southwest Virginia, Bluefield College launched a Rural Health Care Initiative in the fall of 2009. Partnering with the region’s community colleges and health care providers, the BSN program is designed to offer a baccalaureate degree to students seeking to serve, and those already serving, in health-related fields within their communities.
“The RN-to-BSN degree is a transformational degree, both for Bluefield College and for the community,” said BC president Dr. David Olive. “It has the potential to significantly improve the quality of health care in southwest Virginia by providing additional opportunities for nursing education at the baccalaureate level.”
The RN-to-BSN program, BC leaders said, is designed to meet a critical need in southwest Virginia for baccalaureate nursing education. Based on a recent study completed by the college, more than 90 percent of student respondents in RN programs in southwest Virginia expressed a strong interest in a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Only 20 colleges in Virginia offer the BSN, and Bluefield becomes just the second located in southwest Virginia to do so.
“We think there is a need for additional educational institutions to offer the baccalaureate nursing program,” said Dr. Robert Shippey, BC vice president for academic affairs, “and we are grateful for the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and the Thompson Foundation who provided the grants that made it possible for us to launch our initiative and to Dr. Estepp for introducing us to Dr. Peggy Opitz, a longtime nurse educator who has been instrumental in helping us develop the curriculum for this exciting new program in nursing education and health care leadership.”
Under the terms of the “2+2” agreement between Bluefield and Southwest, graduates of SWCC’s associate degree in nursing program who meet all other transfer admission requirements at Bluefield College receive automatic entrance into the BSN program. With automatic admission, students are allowed to transfer credit hours from all SWCC courses, up to a maximum of 94 credits, including general education courses. In addition, students receive a waiver of the BC application fee and eligibility for the Bluefield College Articulation Scholarship.
Instruction for the bachelor’s degree in nursing will be delivered through BC’s inSPIRE degree-completion program, a convenient, accelerated degree-completion program designed to allow a working adult with prior college credit the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in as little as 13 months. Weekly BSN classes to cohorts of at least 10 students will be offered on the SWCC campus in Richlands, Virginia, and at the Booth Center in Grundy, Virginia, using flexible delivery modes, including traditional on-site teaching and limited distance learning technologies. Field and clinical experiences will take place within the general area of Southwest’s service region.
“SWCC looks forward to this collaborative partnership, which will enable our associate degree nursing students, who value rural health care delivery, to be able to advance their degree to the bachelor’s level and stay in our region,” said Dr. Barbara Fuller, vice president of instruction at SWCC. “SWCC has worked with the Center for Occupational Research and Development and the Clements Group in establishing Career Pathways from middle school through post secondary. We view this as a positive progression on the 2+2 career pathway.”
For more information about the RN-to-BSN program, contact the Bluefield College Admissions Office by phone at 800-872-0175 or by email at [email protected], or visit the BC or SWCC web sites at www.sw.edu or www.bluefield.edu.