As the demand for highly trained healthcare providers continues to mount nationally, nurse educators at Kirkwood are preparing their students to meet the demands of this growing challenge as they work toward creating a seamless academic pathway leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Through a collaborative partnership with the University of Iowa College of Nursing initiated two years ago, Kirkwood nursing students can matriculate three years on their home campus in foundational and clinical training, while spending their final academic year in online coursework at UI in order to obtain a BSN. Additionally, the agreement aligns with national goals and industry standards in ensuring that a majority of nurses in the field obtain a bachelor’s degree.
“It is critical that we provide pathways to the BSN for those individuals who start their education at the community college,” said Dr. Julie Zerwic, dean of Nursing at UI. “The Institute of Medicine has expressed a clear goal that 80% of nurses achieve a bachelor degree.”
Currently, about 56% of nurses in Iowa have obtained a BSN, but partnerships like the Kirkwood-University of Iowa 3+1 agreement increases the state’s opportunity to move closer to achieving the 80% goal, Zerwic added.
Following the submission of an Iowa RN-BSN application during their final semester in Kirkwood’s nursing program, perspective student applicants will be exempt from the admission and progression committee, which allows an automatic direct early admission to the program after meeting its requirements of a 3.0 GPA or higher and completed prerequisites in Composition II, Speech, Statistics and elective courses.
Once enrolled at the UI, students in the program will follow a curriculum which consists of four core professional nursing courses. These include Professionalism & Patient Safety, Research, Health Systems and Leadership. Additionally, students are introduced to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Health Professions, coupled with coursework in Human Genetics, Pathology and Community & Public Health.
Iowa RN-BSN students interested in becoming nurse practitioners can become eligible for an accelerated admissions path after first receiving acceptance to the RN-BSN program as well as also holding a grade-point average of 3.25 or higher.
“The partnership will help the profession by facilitating RN-BSN education, which will in turn increase the number of nurses who go on for graduate degrees,” said Dr. Kathy Dolter, dean of Nursing for Kirkwood, whose students have consistently ranked number one for the past five years based on their passage rates on the NCLEX exam for nursing certification.
Dolter noted the additional education gained by students through the partnership will allow Kirkwood students to build upon their Quality and Safety Education in Nursing (QSEN) competencies in patient safety, evidence-based practice, patient centered care, teamwork and informatics.
This increase in student’s QSEN competencies will be their stepping stone to even further nursing education so that our graduates can become a force in improving our challenged healthcare system – with a nursing shortage, a lack of focus on prevention and poor health care outcomes, Dolter added.
Currently, the program, which has already admitted seven Kirkwood students to begin in the spring semester of January 2023, has also opened the 3+1 partnership recent Kirkwood nursing graduates. This gives them an opportunity to participate and take advantage of furthering their nursing education based upon the coursework and program requirements they have already completed.
While the partnership hopes to increase the percentage of nurses in the state holding bachelor’s degrees, the profession comes with its own demands such as the ability to create a strong work-life balance in terms of “family and other responsibilities,” Zerwic said.
“This has always been an issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the complexities of balancing schedules and establishing priorities. We believe strongly that the more that we can do to create an educational pathway that is transparent, reducing redundancies and meeting the students where they are in their communities, the better off we will all be,” Zerwic noted.
She added, “This partnership will create a clear roadmap so that students are able to use their time and resources wisely and be able to have a seamless transition from Kirkwood to the University of Iowa.”