Worcester State University and Quinsigamond Community College have joined forces on the 3+1 Nursing Program, an affordable pathway for registered nurses who hold a diploma or associate degree to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.
WSU President Barry M. Maloney and QCC President Gail Carberry signed an agreement at QCC’s Healthcare and Workforce Development Center at 25 Federal Street in downtown Worcester today assuring the smooth 4-year pathway and transfer of credits. Students in the 3+1 Nursing Program will take three years of coursework at QCC and then, for their fourth year, complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree at WSU.
“We are committed to addressing the workforce need for more bachelor’s -holding nurses and to providing a high quality, student-friendly pathway for achieving that in cost effective way,” said President Maloney.
President Carberry said, “We are delighted to offer this new program for our nursing students who want to advance their careers. Demand for nursing care is increasing as our population ages, and employment for nurses is projected to increase substantially over the next 10 years. We are also excited about the opportunities that this program offers to bring more students to Downtown Worcester, in the heart of the area’s Medical City.”
While students can become registered nurses with an associate degree, consensus is growing that a more highly educated nursing workforce is needed to manage the increasing complexity of hospital car and non-hospital nursing situations.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine, a national body that provides guidance in nursing and medical education, issued a report calling for 80 percent of the nursing workforce to be prepared at the Bachelor of Science level by 2020.
“In Massachusetts we’re nowhere close to that,” said Stephanie Chalupka, Associate Dean of Nursing at WSU. She estimates that only about 55 percent of nurses in the state have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, degree.
To help close the gap, the Institute of Medicine as well as other state and national health care professional groups have challenged higher education institutions to think of ways to increase higher-level training for nurses.
In response, Chalupka has worked with Jane June, Dean of the School of Health Care at QCC, and others to develop the new agreement to start the 3+1 Nursing Program. The program provides a clearer path for students aiming for a BSN, along with counseling support to help them explore academic and professional leadership opportunities.
“When a student finishes an associate degree program, a lot of them think it’s the end of the line for them,” June said, “They think ‘Oh good. I’m finally registered,’ and they don’t think about further education. But when they get out and practice they will quickly recognize that a bachelor’s degree is going to open additional doors for them.”
To remove some of the barriers to a BSN, the curricula at both schools were closely examined to avoid course duplication and to align program requirements. Students will earn 90 carefully planned credits at QCC before transferring to WSU to complete their studies.
“When they’ve completed their QCC courses, they can just come right in to WSU,” Chalupka said. “It will be perfectly seamless.”
The 3+1 Nursing Program will be especially beneficial to students who might otherwise hesitate to take the plunge into a baccalaureate program, June said, including busy single parents or those for whom English is a second language.
“This will make a huge difference for those students,” she said. “If they can take their third year here at Quinsigamond, when it’s time to go over to Worcester State, they’ll be ready. They’re academically prepared, their confidence is built, they’re now registered nurses, they’re out there in the community, and now they’re focusing on only the nursing courses, so this is really just a phenomenal thing.”
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