Laura Gilmore enrolled in Chamberlain College of Nursing's RN to BSN Online Degree Completion Option in 2010. She earned her Bachelor in Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in 2012, more than five years after she got her first job as a nurse.
Today Gilmore is the Magnet coordinator for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Zion, Illinois. When she started working at the facility in 2008, it was already on track to earn Magnet status, a prestigious designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for healthcare facilities that agree to increase the proportion of staff RNs who hold a BSN to 80 percent by 2020.
According to the ANCC, healthcare organizations achieving Magnet status provide higher-quality patient care, foster innovations in nursing practice and contribute to a more collaborative work culture. Gilmore set her sights on going back to school so she could become part of CTCA's 80 percent.
"Chamberlain's RN to BSN option is 100 percent online with eight-week class sessions which allowed me to continue working full time and take classes when my schedule permitted," Gilmore added. "Plus, I was able to interact with my instructors as often as needed."
Faculty can make all the difference in a program - especially in an online program. Through Chamberlain's RN to BSN option, Gilmore was able to communicate with faculty members by email, phone or the online course shell. Faculty responded within 24 hours, and all offered office hours for convenient access.
Chamberlain has received national recognition for its peer-based approach and continuous improvement in online education and student learning from Quality Matters™ (QM), a leader in quality assurance for online education that aims to improve and certify the design of online and blended courses. All of Chamberlain's post licensure faculty participate in QM's faculty-centered peer review process and training.
Gilmore credits Chamberlain's RN to BSN option with helping her advance her nursing education and develop the leadership, communication and critical thinking skills necessary to move ahead in her profession.
"I didn't need a bachelor's degree to be hired as a registered nurse (RN) when I started working in 2007," Gilmore said. "Today the industry is changing, and many hospitals now require nurses to hold a bachelor's degree. I knew I needed to go back to school to stay competitive and to improve the quality of care I provide to my patients."
Healthcare leaders agree that nurses with a BSN degree or higher possess a broader knowledge base of patient care, quality standards, business acumen and other skills that result in improved patient outcomes.
A recent study indicated that increasing the percentage of nurses with bachelor's degrees in a hospital can significantly lower readmission rates and shorten lengths of stay. That is why many hospitals and other healthcare settings have begun to require incoming nurses to have a BSN.
More than 43 percent of hospitals and other healthcare settings now require incoming nurses to have a bachelor's degree in nursing, and 78.6 percent say they prefer BSN graduates.
This heightened focus on baccalaureate education puts a spotlight on nursing programs that offer continuing education or degree-completion opportunities online for the many RNs who aspire to advance their careers while continuing to work full time.
Currently, 679 RN to BSN options are available nationwide, including more than 400 offered at least partially online, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. While their lengths vary, programs such as Chamberlain's allow RNs to earn their BSN in as few as three semesters with year-round, full-time enrollment.
Gilmore says earning her BSN has made her more confident as a practitioner and enhanced her credibility as a healthcare professional. She recently implemented a clinical update at her hospital that has improved care for a large number of patients.
"Having a BSN degree has helped me in my career path and has improved my ability to provide excellent care to our patients," Gilmore said. “I’m excited to see what the nursing profession will look like a decade from today."
By Danielle Logacho
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