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By Kristin Rothwell, NurseZone feature writer
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, between 1975
and 1999, the number of RNs with associate degrees or hospital diplomas
graduating from BSN programs rose from approximately 3,700 a year to more than
12,000 annually. And that number is still rising.
As the nursing shortage intensifies, hundreds of people—some already in the
nursing field and others from different educational and professional backgrounds—are
entering one year RN-to-BSN programs offered at nursing schools throughout the
The one-year programs, which have existed for more than 20 years, have mainly
targeted people wishing to enhance their nursing credentials and career, and
people with degrees looking to enter a new profession without spending more than
one year in school.
MCP Hahnemann University School of Nursing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
began its 12-month Accelerated Career Entry (ACE) Bachelor of Science in Nursing
program for the first time on September 24.
While the ACE program is open to those already in the nursing profession,
Mary Ellen Smith, RN, MSN, director of undergraduate nursing programs at MCP
Hahnemann University said, of the 43 students who were accepted into the program
this year, many hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science and other
"We wanted to offer the opportunity for bright people in other
professions including psychology, social services and law the opportunity to
become nurses," she said. "That’s now doable. Instead of having them
wait three years [to graduate], we are giving them that education in 12 months—making
it possible for them to complete the program at a faster rate."
The same holds true at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, which
established its one year RN-to-BSN program in 1975 as a result of a nursing
shortage during the 1970s. Since then, the program has appealed to majors in
psychiatry, exercise science, theology, math and fine arts.
Connie L. Miller, RN, MSN, program chair for Creighton’s Accelerated
Nursing Program, said, "For many of the students, nursing is something they
had thought of but somehow got steered away from and then went into [another]
career but didn’t feel satisfied so they pursued their dream of nursing."
Go Virtual: RN-to-BSN Programs Offered Online
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RNs looking to earn their BSN credentials can now earn them through RN-to-BSN
The online programs will not only help offset the nursing shortage, according
to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, but will also provide more
nurses who would not otherwise have the opportunity because they lack access to
a college campus, or because work, family or economic constraints prevent a
full-time, on-site education.
Katherine Garner, DrPH, RN, FAAN, Dean of Nursing for the University of
Phoenix, said, "Acceptance for [online education] is growing daily."
Many of the online programs do not have residency requirements, which allows
nurses, no matter where they are, to complete coursework from anywhere that they
have a computer and Internet access.
"Academe cannot afford to ignore the growing ranks of people eager to
learn but unable to participate in traditional programs," said Brian
Mueller, chief operating officer for the University of Phoenix.
For more information about online RN-to-BSN programs, these are just a few of
the RN-to-BSN Online Completion programs available:
MU Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri-Columbia
She added, "Because the program has sustained itself for 26 years, it
gives people in other professions the chance to have the same background as the
traditional [nursing] student while providing them another way to enter the
profession in a quicker way that still meets the same objective as the
One Year Program = Full-time Commitment
Since two years are packed into one year, the accelerated program is focused,
according to Miller, who said, "It’s all nursing."
Before students are accepted into the programs at MCP Hahnemann or Creighton
University, they must complete several prerequisites—including science, ethics
and nutrition courses—and prove that they can handle workload stress.
"If they do well with the prerequisites, they seem to do fine in the
program," said Miller. "Some people handle stress well and, needless
to say, the program is stressful. If [the students] don’t handle stress or
multiple demands well, it will relate to how they cope."
At Creighton, potential students are counseled prior to entering the program
since they must consider whether they can handle completing three terms—20
hours to complete in the first term and 19 hours in the second and third terms.
"[Students] need to think about spending 40 hours per week in the
classroom or clinical setting, in addition to the time they spend
studying," said Miller. "We look at how many hours they carried as
traditional college students: "Did they go consistently? Or did it take
them six or seven years? Of course, many students write in their admission
statements that they weren’t focused as freshmen or sophomores, asking that we
please look at trends [in terms of grades and attendance]. We do look at that,
At MCP Hahnemann, Smith added, "Some of the applicants weren’t
accepted because we want very bright people." MCP Hahnemann applicants who
graduated with a bachelor’s degree are required to have at least a 2.75 GPA
and a minimum 3.0 GPA if they received a master’s degree.
"[The students] must actually earn 86 nursing credits," said Smith,
"which is more than the [traditional] nursing student."
Miller said, "It is definitely a full-time commitment."
Student Nurse Perspective
Creigton University students Erin Webb and Theresa Pankowski, who are both in
their last trimester, found the one-year RN-to-BSN program appealing for two
reasons: less time in school before getting back to work—this time in nursing—within
Pankowski, who considered going into nursing after graduating with a degree
in environmental science, found she didn’t have the motivation or the finances
to return for a degree in nursing.
"But when I thought about what I wanted out of a career—the ability to
work with people, a fast-paced environment, constantly being challenged,
learning new things and reaping the rewards of helping others—I decided that
nursing is where I belonged. So at the age of 25, I decided to take the plunge
into the Accelerated Nursing Program, and can honestly say that it was one of
the best decision I’ve made."
She added, "If I would have only had the option of going into a two-year
[nursing] program, I’m not sure I would have taken that road."
Pankowski’s story is not uncommon.
Webb received a scholarship in high school to study education. She earned a
degree in English before realizing that she didn’t want to teach, which lead
her into nursing.
"Now, I’m exactly where I want to be," she said.
While there are several good points of the one-year program, there are also
drawbacks. Since students can’t keep a job during the year due to the
intensive amount of work and study time, money often becomes tight as students
lose their earning power. At Creighton, students can have their tuition
($24,738) waived if they commit to work full-time at a local hospital for three
to four years after graduation. Another issue is meeting deadlines.
"One of the biggest challenges is the amount of work," said Webb.
"I’m not used to that. I have less free time but I find that it’s
easier for me to be oriented in one year than if the program were stretched
Pankowski, who sometimes fears that with so much information to digest she
won’t remember it on the job, said, "I personally don’t think it’s
all that tough. It’s just a matter of managing your time and staying on top of
the game. If you’re a procrastinator or have trouble motivating yourself then
maybe this program isn’t for you. But if you stay on task and actually apply
yourself, you will have no problem completing the program."
Webb added, "The instructors are really good about telling you what you’re
going to be tested on and what you need to know. I find that I go to bed a lot
earlier and get a whole lot more accomplished in my days here."
Both women have found that the program has helped them not only accomplish
what they wanted to do in life—become nurses—but meet that goal in a shorter
"It seems like yesterday that I started this program, and within just a
couple of months I will actually be out there doing what I want to do" said
Pankowski. "I have been exposed to so many different experiences, and
really feel that I have grown as a person. That means a lot to me."
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