May 06, 2016
By Greg Peters
|Makayla Dunn and Nichole Armintrout|
Not long from now, Makayla Dunn and Nichole Armintrout will be walking down Campanile Hill alongside their fellow graduates in the University of Kansas' annual commencement. While the two will no doubt blend in with the other excited graduates, it's likely none of their peers in the procession will recognize them as true pioneers.
As the first graduates in the newly created Kansas University-Community College Nursing Partnership's (KUCCNP) shared-curriculum program, Dunn and Armintrout are blazing an academic trail that will be closely watched by the health care industry nationwide as it seeks to address the need for more nurses with baccalaureate degrees. Through this groundbreaking endeavor, these students will simultaneously receive their Associate's Degrees in Nursing (ADN) from Kansas City Kansas Community College and their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees from the University of Kansas.
"Walking in KU graduation is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I would not miss it for anything," Dunn said. "I will feel like I'm in a dream."
"Simply knowing we were the first students in the program made me excited and terrified at the same time," said Armintrout.
History of the KUCCNP
The need nationally for more nurses with baccalaureate degrees in nursing has been spurred in part by health care industry research showing patient outcomes are significantly improved when the person is cared for by a nurse with a BSN. In 2010, a report from the Institute of Medicine recommended that by 2020, 80 percent of nurses should hold bachelor's degrees in nursing. Consequently, many hospitals and health care providers require, or soon will require, nurses to have BSNs.
When you take into account the number of baby boomer nurses who will be retiring soon, combined with the health care needs of an aging general population, the result is an unprecedented demand for new nurses.
"This program in nursing education will benefit not only our students and the community, but it will potentially affect nursing education in general," said Anita Krondak, interim dean of Allied Health and Nursing at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
The origins of the KUCCNP can be traced to earlier this decade. In 2013, KU School of Nursing officials met with leaders from the state community colleges, which have accredited nursing programs, to discuss a combined curriculum. By 2014 the schools had received approval of the pre-licensure partnership model from the Kansas Board of Nursing and the Kansas Board of Regents.
A series of fortunate circumstances led to Kansas City Kansas Community College becoming the pilot school. Community college officials said in addition to being the closest school geographically to KU Medical Center, Kansas City Kansas Community College had just completed a new curriculum; and had received its accreditation for eight years from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
"We are excited to be graduating the first students from the Kansas University-Community College Nursing Partnership program in collaboration with Kansas City Kansas Community College," said Sally Maliski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the KU School of Nursing. "Thanks to the hard work of faculty members Nelda Godfrey and David Martin, in partnership with our community college colleagues, this unique and innovative program will grow and open doors for many more students to enter the nursing profession."
The first two
When it came time to enroll the first students in KUCCNP, Armintrout and Dunn seemed ideal. The women attended Turner Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Kansas City, Kansas, together before becoming the first students admitted to the shared-curriculum program in January 2015. They have leaned heavily on each other to make it through the program, while juggling jobs, classes and the challenges of everyday life.
"Both students are very smart, motivated and organized," said Krondak. "They have made personal and financial sacrifices to complete the program."
"We have spent nearly every day together for the past two years, pushing each other to succeed," Dunn said. "I whole-heartedly believe if I did not have someone by my side giving me strength, I would not have been able to do this."
In order to be admitted into the KUCCNP program, students must meet specific criteria. First, they must have completed the required prerequisite coursework for admittance into the KU School of Nursing; apply and be accepted into their community college nursing program. They then had to apply to KU School of Nursing.
KU faculty have worked with the community colleges to craft a shared curriculum containing the required elements to sit for licensure. The program takes advantage of resources already in place at the community colleges. KU coursework is done online using Blackboard and other educational technologies.
"The partnership makes the transition much smoother for the student, while building relationships and capacity between the university and community college nursing efforts," said Nelda Godfrey, Ph.D., RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, associate dean for undergraduate programs at KU School of Nursing. "Ultimately, students can move easily through the pathway and achieve both degrees. Simply said, it's a better, more efficient pipeline for educating nurses."
Currently, about 20 Kansas City Kansas Community College students are in the program with more enrolling each semester. David Martin, MN, RN, director of the RN-to-BSN and Shared Curriculum Program, said the program is currently limited to about 50 students, but the potential for growth is unknown. Conversations are underway with Kansas community colleges to provide similar programs in the future.
Armintrout said while the shared-curriculum model might not be the right fit for everyone, but it's well worth nursing students considering for them to earn their BSN.
"Don't shy away just because you don't think you can handle it," Armintrout said. "You can get through it if you set your mind to it and stay focused. If you have the passion and will to put yourself through a tough, yet beneficial experience, this program is for you."
Armintrout and Dunn have both accepted jobs in the Pre/Post Nursing Unit at the University of Kansas Hospital and will start work after graduation.