Better trained nurses improve health care: UNMC College of Nursing promoting bachelor degree options

September 19, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — Efforts are underway at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing — West Nebraska division to increase the number of baccalauereate prepared nurses practicing in western Nebraska, an effort that eventually improves patient care at Panhandle hospitals and clinics.

The UNMC College of Nursing — West Nebraska division in Scottsbluff will host a recruitment program on Sept. 26 to educate potential students about the options for bachelor of nursing degree programs. The open house will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Regional West Medical Center, in the Scotts Bluff I and II rooms.

Kelly Betts, who recently began in her post as assistant dean at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing — West Nebraska division, said that the purpose of the event is to try to recruit more nurses to continue their education to achieve bachelor’s degrees in nursing. UNMC College of Nursing has partnered with Regional West Medical Center in hosting the event.

As the nation’s hospitals and health care facilities aim to increase the health care system and patient outcomes, the Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80 percent of nurses hold a bachelors degree by the year 2020.

As of 2015, a Nebraska RN Survey Report issued by the Nebraska Center for Nursing, found the number of nurses with bachelor degrees had increased by 10 percent over a five-year period, the state continued to have numbers below the Institute of Medicine recommendations, at 61 percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The survey found that 49.9 percent of nurses held bachelor’s degrees.

The numbers of baccalaureate prepared nurses is lower in western Nebraska than in more populated areas such as Omaha and Lincoln, Betts said.

In Scotts Bluff County, the rates of baccalaureate-prepared nurses is higher than other counties in the state, mostly due to Regional West Medical Center, outpatient clinics and long-term facilities. However, Betts said, all counties in the Panhandle would see benefits in health care with more baccalaureate-prepared nurses.

For health care facilities, increasing the numbers of baccalaureate prepared nurses improves patient outcomes.

“Research has shown that hospitals with baccalaureate prepared nurses see a decrease in mortality rates, admission rates and an improvement in hospital and patient conditions,” Betts said.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a 10 percent increase in the proportion of nurses with bachelors degrees in nursing reduced the likelihood of patient death by 5 percent, according to an article available on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website.

Betts said nurses continuing their education to a bachelor’s degree program benefit from curriculum with additional leadership training, more emphasis on evidence-based practices and a higher level of critical thinking.

“A lot of (the improvement in health care) has to do with leadership ability,” Betts said. Nurses with associate degree’s are “very good nurses,” she said, but nurses who have continued their education tend have developed leadership skills and have been trained in skills that are “just one step further in training on evidence-based practices, quality improvement and improving patient outcomes.”

As the workforce in nursing continues to age, Betts said, hospitals and health care facilities will continue to see more of a shortage of nurses. Nationwide statistics indicate that the median age of nurses is 43 years old, according to Betts. As those nurses retire, more nurses will be needed.

“It is a challenge we face in the nursing profession overall,” she said.

Historically, Betts said, she thinks nurses have pursued associates degrees in order to begin their nursing career’s faster. However, she said, research also shows that baccalaureate-prepared nurses also experience better job satisfaction and stay with facilities longer. They are also four times more likely to further their education, pursuing master’s degrees or even doctorate degrees, Betts said.

UNMC College of Nursing touts itself as a 500-mile wide campus, with students in Scottsbluff getting the same education as counterparts at the college’s Norfolk, Lincoln and Omaha campuses.

Jerry Schledewitz, Learning Resource Center technologist at UNMC College of Nursing — West Nebraska division, highlighted that in terms of technology, the Scottsbluff campus is right there with its counterparts, and in some areas, has experienced improvements in technology before other campuses.

For example, the Scottsbluff campus and the Omaha campus were the first campuses to get the iExcel iWall, a 2-D curved digital wall that can project information and visuals like a giant tablet. The iWall allows students and professors at UNMC College of Nursing to communicate across all of its campuses.

The campus’ interactive learning extends to its high-fidelity mannequins, which allow students to do everything from experience a birthing experience to reactions of a patient after being given certain drugs.

“When we say hands-on, it really is hands-on and is a good experience for nurses to hone their skills,” Schledewitz said.

Betts said the mannequins also allow nursing students to practice skills in a safe environment, where they will benefit from immediate feedback, to learn, and enhances critical thinking as it simulates the experiences they would get when working.

The same curriculum taught at other campuses throughout the state is also taught at the Scottsbluff campus, Betts said, but students benefit from a more one-on-one experience and mentoring because of smaller class sizes.

People attending the Sept. 26 recruitment event will be able to get the information they need as far as program requirements to start thinking ahead in pursuing a nursing degree or continuing their nursing education, Betts said.

The UNMC College of Nursing — West Nebraska division offers three bachelor of nursing (BCN) programs that can appeal to nurses or prospective nurses in all areas of life. It offers a traditional BCN program, for those students beginning their nursing education; an RN to BSN program for those nurses who have already become registered nurses; and even an accelerated bachelor’s degree program, which could appeal to those people who have already achieved a degree in another field and looking to change careers. It’s RN to BCN program is also mostly online, making nurses able to pursue higher education, while continuing to work.

Officials with UNMC will go into the options available during the recruitment open house.

Also, options exist through UNMC for nurses wishing to continue advancing in their careers, including advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) or doctorate programs in nursing.

For more information on the recruitment event, contact Karen Schledewitz, 308-632-0413 or email klschledewitz@unmc.edu. A distance connection option will also be available for those who can’t attend in person: https://unmc.zoom.uz/j/768972247.

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