Online RN-BSN Program Caters to Working Nurses

By Laura McDonough

As the baby boomers’ age demands for nurses in the United States, Youngstown State University intends to relieve it through its online RN-BSN program.

Nancy Wagner, chair of the nursing department at YSU, said the shortage is affecting hospitals across the state.

“Even in the Youngstown area, some of the hospitals have mandated their staff to work overtime,” Wagner said.

Although having a Bachelor of Science in nursing is not a state requirement, many hospitals are recommending that registered nurses complete their BSN within five years.

Wagner wrote a grant proposal last spring with the assistance of Cindy Shields, assistant professor and BSN program coordinator, and Molly Roche, RN-BSN program coordinator, seeking $182,984 in hopes of moving the program to a strictly online model.

The RN-BSN program was one of YSU’s first nursing programs. It is strictly online now, but it began on campus then became a hybrid program to accommodate working nurses.

Taking into consideration that most nurses in the RN-BSN program worked full time and looking at what other programs in the area were doing, it wasn’t a hard decision to move to the online only model.

“We found that a lot of the programs that were really growing were going fully online,” Wagner said.

Wagner is hoping to increase nursing enrollment at YSU by 25 percent because students will be able to complete their RN-BSN online.

“Some like being in class, some like being online so we just decided that we felt like the benefits of being online outweigh those that want to come to class, because it’s just really difficult for them to get here before or after work,” Wagner said.

She said the program will not be too different from a traditional on-campus program.

A new course called Nursing Informatics will be added at the beginning of the program to prepare students for the online program by teaching them how to do a podcast, how to load a PowerPoint and other skills they will need.

“It will help them get used to the online environment while talking about nursing issues as well,” Wagner said.

In addition to expanding the online RN-BSN program, the grant funds will be used to boost advertisement, boost recruitment, update the website, buy educational materials and hire a new RN-BSN clinical coordinator to help faculty with advisement responsibilities and recruitment.

To fulfill the requirements for the grant, Wagner had to reach out to another institution such as a hospital to provide nursing students with a place to complete their clinical course.

“Some schools have partnered with community agencies. We’ve partnered with St. Elizabeth Youngstown,” Wagner said.

Maraline Kubik, public relations specialist for Mercy Health, said St. Elizabeth Health Center is not currently experiencing a nursing shortage, but they are expecting positions to open up in the near future.

“I don’t know that we’d say we’re expecting a shortage, but we’re expecting to have a need to fill many positions, both because of people retiring and because of the growth of our organization,” Kubik said.

The Nurse Education Grant Program supported by The Ohio Board of Education calls for grant proposals every two years. Wagner proposed the exact amount estimated to grow the RN-BSN program and was awarded one of 16 grants from $2,987,012 the Ohio Board of Education allotted.

“We feel really fortunate that we were awarded this grant. It’s an honor to receive this funding,” Wagner said.