High Demand: New England College Partners with Catholic Medical Center to Meet the Demand for More Nursing Staff
In clinical settings, like Catholic Medical Center (CMC), nurses provide thorough patient care, master emerging technologies that improve patient care, and stay on top of the administrative side of patient care. To do all this and more, nurses need to be dedicated, patient, skillful, and knowledgeable. In short, they answer a call.
To help more people answer that call and move into their nursing careers faster, New England College (NEC) launched a cooperative three-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing in the fall of 2022. This innovative program pairs NEC’s nursing students who work as licensed nursing assistants (LNAs) with a partner healthcare organization that provides three 14-week immersive clinical experiences and a robust transition to practice and capstone courses.
Now, CMC has become NEC’s newest healthcare partner. The two organizations began discussing this partnership about two years ago and are currently working together to establish immersive clinical experiences at CMC, which anticipates its first cohort of eight BSN students in the fall of 2023.
“We are developing a diverse workforce,” stated Jennifer Cassin, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at CMC. “And this partnership offers us another pathway to engage with a potential workforce outside of the traditional college model, which is where nursing education has been for a while.”
Finding additional ways to engage with potential clinicians is exactly what CMC needs. Like so many healthcare facilities, CMC feels the strain of the skilled nursing shortage that had been coming on for the last decade and has been amplified by COVID-19. BSN students who work as LNAs at CMC will help alleviate strain on an overburdened healthcare system on their way to becoming skilled nurses.
Cassin emphasized that the partnership with NEC can take LNAs to the next level of knowledge and skill while the immersive clinical experiences will hopefully create connections between NEC’s nursing students and CMC, leading those nurses to continue working at CMC after graduation. In essence, BSN students who work at CMC throughout the program are more likely to become part of the medical center’s culture and more smoothly transition to nursing careers at CMC.
Jennifer Torosian, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at CMC, added that clinical recruiting efforts in many health systems concentrate on nurses with a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is particularly the case with the Veterans Administration and those systems with American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Status. At the same time, nurses who earn a BSN face more career growth opportunities, from advanced practice nursing to educator and leadership roles, which often require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
“Our impetus for starting this three-year BSN program was mitigating workforce needs and developing nurses ready for the complexities of 21st-century healthcare,” explained Dr. Angela McPhee-Smith, DNP, RN, CNE, and Dean of Nursing and Health Professions and Associate Professor of Nursing at NEC. “This new partnership with CMC is great for nursing and healthcare in general.”
The partnership between NEC and CMC seamlessly blends the two organizations’ commitment to diversity. According to Karen Schoch, Director of Organizational Development at CMC, the health system has expanded its clinical recruiting efforts as it builds a workforce that better mirrors its patient population.
“NEC is known for having a diverse student population that is far beyond the diversity throughout New Hampshire,” Schoch pointed out, “so when I think about the big picture benefits of this partnership, I see that we are boosting NEC’s enrollment, our workforce, and the diversity of our workforce. It’s such a huge benefit for so many.”
NEC’s Three-Year Cooperative BSN
NEC’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing moves nurses into the workforce faster than traditional academic models. This three-year program offers a complementary approach by combining on-campus or synchronous online learning with immersive clinical experiences at one of NEC’s partner hospitals. McPhee-Smith noted that “NEC and regional healthcare systems partner together to educate professional registered nurses (RN) of the future. It is a true academic-practice partnership.”
Students begin the program by attending their first two trimesters of classes. Students become LNA employees in the healthcare system and earn as they learn. For the duration of the BSN program, students toggle between the classroom and clinical environments. This preceptor model allows students to more realistically experience the role of the RN, apply new knowledge, advance skills, earn income while attending college, and make the transition to independent practice smoother.
At NEC, the BSN curriculum has a concept- and competency-based design built on a foundation of systems-based practice, informatics and technology, engagement and experience, and academic-practice-partnerships. Students are exposed to practice experiences with individuals, families, communities, and populations across the lifespan and care continuum. By the time students graduate, they will have worked in these settings for three years, which allows them the time to form community connections.
Earning a BSN also opens more professional opportunities for nurses. For example, they can pursue leadership and management roles; work with the Veterans Administration, which only hires BSNs and above; go into the military as officers; or be better positioned for higher education paths like a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
“A lot of people may think they cannot get into nursing school or may have been turned away,” added McPhee-Smith. “This program is an opportunity for those people to submit their application materials and let us get to know them. At NEC, we do a holistic admission review for each applicant, so we’re very interested in their life stories. We want people to go to nursing school.”
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