By HANNAH RIDDLE
Incoming students to the University of Mary Washington will now have access to a new four year nursing program set to begin this fall semester.
The upcoming program, entitled the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Academic Partnership Plan (APP) or the 1+2+1 BSN Plan, will be open to incoming freshmen who wish to graduate in four years as registered nurses with bachelor’s degrees.
“[Nursing is] one of the best professions in the world,” said Program Director Pamela McCullough, who has worked in the field for 35 years.
According to McCullough, the range of job options within the career is what makes it so desirable. It was McCullough who led UMW to partner with Germanna Community College over the summer in order to create the new program.
Germanna already has an established nursing program.
“Instead of starting from scratch,” said McCullough, “we complement the Germanna program.”
According to the partnership, a UMW student enrolled in 1+2+1 will spend their first year taking general education and prerequisite classes at UMW. The student will then take Germanna classes for two additional years in order to earn an Associate of Applied Science. The AAS is required for any student interested in becoming a registered nurse.
With an AAS under their belt, the student can then return to classes at UMW, where he or she will earn a BSN before graduation.
Current UMW students Allie Nicklow, Jason Larson and Chris Lowe understand the merits of earning a BSN as an undergraduate. All three work full-time at Mary Washington Hospital. In between shifts, they study in UMW’s current nursing platform: the BSN-Completion Program.
The Completion Program is also fairly recent, having just begun last fall, but it is based on the Stafford Campus and geared toward students who are already registered nurses and have returned to school in order to earn their BSNs.
“It’s going to be a state requirement within the next couple years,” said Nicklow.
BSN degrees are almost necessary in order to practice nursing professionally.
“A lot of places won’t even hire you without a BSN,” said Lowe.
According to McCullough, the degree is part of a larger trend.
“There’s a national movement to increase the education level of the nurse at the bedside,” said McCullough. She noted that medical centers have shown that patients with nurses holding BSNs have an improved patient outcome.
Presently, about 50 percent of nurses today have BSNs. That percentage is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2020, according to McCullough.
Nicklow, Larson and Lowe continue to work toward their BSNs, but explained the obtaining the degree through a Completion Program comes with a number of challenges. They often finish 12-hour nightshifts at the hospital around 7:00 a.m.
“If I could replay the tape, I would love to get my B.A. first rather than getting a B.A. while working full time,” said Larson.
According to Nicklow, she would have liked an opportunity to join the 1+2+1 programn had it been available in her college days.
“I would have loved to be closer to home,” said Nicklow.
However, that opportunity will have to be left to next year’s class of nursing students. Through the 1+2+1 Plan, these students will get to enjoy what McCullough calls the “residential experience,” as they train and study to become nurses while also living at a four year school.
To McCullough’s knowledge, the 1+2+1 is the only nursing plan in Virginia that makes use of such an academic partnership.
“Our program is unique in that way,” said McCullough.
She adds that UMW is not only partnering with Germanna but also with Mary Washington Hospital in this new endeavor.
“Nursing is a practice profession,” said McCullough. “It’s very important what you do in academics, but also what you do in practice.”
McCullough said she thinks that the three-way partnership will allow UMW students to find the balance between learning, doing and learning through doing. After that, students will be equipped to enter the healthcare system of Fredericksburg.
“Our overall goal,” said McCullough, “is to improve the health of the community.”