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UT Arlington creates seamless path for RNs to earn bachelor's degree

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

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Media Contact: Traci Peterson, Office:817-272-9208, Cell:817-521-5494, tpeterso@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - A new partnership between University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and more than a dozen Texas community colleges will give nursing students graduating with an associate degree a seamless path to earning a bachelor’s degree.

nursing students

The new Professional Nursing Pathways Program provides community college nursing students access to course plans modeled for quick entry into UT Arlington’s RN-to-BSN program. Through the Pathways program, students establish a relationship with UT Arlington while still in community college. By following the courses outlined, students will be able to begin UT Arlington’s RN-to-BSN program about 60 days after graduating from participating community colleges.

Studies show that just 18 percent of nursing graduates with associate’s degrees pursue more advanced degrees. The Pathways program can change that, said UT Arlington College of Nursing Dean Elizabeth Poster.

“We wanted to take away the barriers that keep these new nurses from completing bachelor’s degrees,” she said. “This program creates an accessible and affordable seamless transition and it begins while students are still at the community college.”

UT Arlington’s popular online RN-to-BSN program can be completed in as little as 13 months.

The UT Arlington College of Nursing is one of the largest and most successful programs in the country, with more than 3,000 of the college’s 6,600 students currently enrolled in the online RN-to-BSN degree program. In recent years, more than 225 Texas hospitals have partnered with UT Arlington to provide their employees the opportunity to take part in the RN-to-BSN program.

The Pathways initiative is a response to a 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that said that 80 percent of nurses in the United States should hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020 compared with the 50 percent of nurses working today.

The program also addresses calls from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in Texas, said Beth Mancini, associate dean of UT Arlington’s College of Nursing.

In North Texas, Tarrant County College and three Dallas County Community College District campuses are part of the Pathways program as are community colleges across the state.

An RN-to-BSN program builds on the skills of registered nurses by expanding their competency in management and leadership, epidemiology, research analysis and management of vulnerable populations. In most cases, nurses enrolled in UT Arlington’s online Academic Partnerships RN-to-BSN program work at least part-time while completing their undergraduate degrees.

Joan Becker, director of the Associate Degree Nursing Program at El Centro Community College in Dallas, said the new partnership is already having an effect, with more students choosing the courses that will make it easier for them to enter UT Arlington. El Centro’s nursing program has about 700 associate degree students.

Becker said local hospitals are looking to hire more BSN prepared nurses as they strive to become “magnet” institutions, an accreditation provided by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

“We had a large percentage of our students attend UT Arlington after graduation, but they had to make their own applications and submit all their own transcripts. It was just a harder process for students and sometimes frustrating,” she said. “Now, application to our associate degree program is an application to UT Arlington’s BSN program.”

The three Dallas County Community College District campuses in the program are El Centro, Brookhaven and Mountain View Colleges. Other partners are: Trinity Valley Community College, Grayson County College (Denison), Navarro College (Corsicana), Weatherford College, Baptist Health System School of Health Professions (San Antonio) and the Lone Star College System (Houston). More partners are expected to be added soon.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of nearly 34,000 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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