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VOL. 128 | NO. 5 | Tuesday, January 08, 2013

UT Health Science Center Revives Bachelor of Nursing Program

By MICHAEL WADDELL

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The University of Tennessee Health Science Center plans to reactivate its baccalaureate program for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing beginning in the fall. The program was suspended in December 2009.

“At that point and time the College of Nursing decided to focus on the graduate program,” said Dr. Tommie Norris, UTHSC associate professor and associate dean/chair of the BSN/MSN department. “Now we are trying to meet our practice partners’ needs as well as improve the overall health care for Tennessee.”

A study from the Tennessee Center for Nursing in 2009 projected there would be a deficit of more than 14,000 full-time registered nurses by 2020. Aging baby boomers and health care reform are two major factors currently having an impact on the nursing industry.

“With the new health care reform, there will be individuals who will have access to health care that never have before,” Norris said. “This will make our country healthier; however, we will need a much larger group to take care of them.”

Dr. Laura A. Talbot, dean of the UTHSC College of Nursing, said there is a huge need for nurse practitioners.

“The projection is based on the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “Especially in rural areas we do not have enough primary care physicians to meet the need, so nurse practitioners are being asked to step up to the plate to help fill that gap.”

A large proportion of the college’s graduates choose to go on to the advanced practice of the nurse practitioner’s role.

“With the new health care reform, there will be individuals who will have access to health care that never have before. ... We will need a much larger group to take care of them.”

–Dr. Tommie Norris, UTHSC

With the economic downfall of the past few years, many nurses that had been expected to retire did not and many that were part-time chose to go full-time.

“So that has alleviated the nursing shortage a bit, but that is not projected to last very long,” Talbot said.

When and if the economy fully recovers, it is expected that many retirement-age nurses will go ahead and retire.

“One of the main things prompting the resurgence of the BSN program is the Institute of Medicine report to improve the quality of health care and the way we educate our practitioners,” Talbot said. “The push is to have more baccalaureate nurses because it shows that they give much better quality of care, and patient outcomes are much improved. We are caring for a more complex patient than we have in the past, so students have to be educated very differently than in the past.”

Several area hospitals are striving for more prestigious “magnate” status, which includes having staff consisting of at least 80 percent Bachelor of Science in Nursing nurses.

“UTHSC wants to be a full-service university and provide nurses at all levels for the state of Tennessee,” said Talbot, who pointed out that the University of Tennessee is the largest producer of health care providers in the state.

With nearly 5,200 alumni, the college is consistently cited on the U.S. News & World Report annual list of America’s Best Graduate Schools.

The college plans to enroll 70 students per year for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing class that will begin matriculating Aug. 1. The application deadline is April 1.

Norris said the program could be expanded in the future, but it is likely classes will stay close to 70 students each year.

The first class of 70 new students will include 30 Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing candidates. The remaining 40 will be traditional students (college students with 60 or more college credits) and second-degree students (college graduates with a desire to change career paths).

Those who enroll and are accepted into UTHSC’s accelerated program will be expected to graduate in December 2014, after 17 months of academic and clinical training.

Since December 2009, the UTHSC College of Nursing has focused entirely on graduate programs that include a master’s degree, PhD in Nursing and a clinical doctorate. The college graduated 95 nurses with advanced degrees in spring 2012 and 85 in spring 2011.

A hot topic for several years has been what the entry level should be for nursing.

“The trend we are seeing from our practice partners is a push towards having a baccalaureate degree for nursing. I’m sure at some point and time we will see that as the required entry into practice,” Norris said.

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