Insight and Action: NEC’s New Three-Year BSN Program
By Dr. Michele D. Perkins, Chancellor of New England College
This article appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of New England College Magazine.
One of my favorite qualities about New England College is our steadfast commitment to innovation and moving forward. That commitment led the College’s leadership to include the launch of a bachelor’s-level nursing program in our Strategic Plan that we developed in 2019, even though we had been planning a nursing program since well before then. We recognized that throughout the state, facilities had been plagued by a shortage of clinical positions, particularly nurses, for some time.
Our plan to help alleviate this shortage by launching a nursing program aligned with COVID in a good way, which sounds a little strange to say, because the pandemic amplified the shortage problem. The Atlantic1 has reported that one in five nurses has left the field since the pandemic began, so developing and launching a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) became even more of a strategic priority for NEC.
Launching a new academic program typically involves quite a bit of market research, but we already knew that the field of nursing needed help and that a nursing program would fit very well with the strength of our existing science programs.
You can imagine that launching a clinically based program would face some challenges, and the largest one was the need for clinical facilities. NEC is not in the position to build such a facility that would easily cost tens of millions of dollars. Thankfully, Wayne Lesperance (Provost), Karen Scolforo (Associate Vice President of Enrollment and Program Development), and Angela McPhee-Smith (Associate Dean of Medical Programs) devised an innovative solution that allowed us to move forward. In our new BSN program, students will spend some time in the classroom, but much of their learning will take place at a partner facility—Concord Hospital, to start.
This model offers NEC’s nursing students three advantages over traditional BSN programs:
- Students become licensed nursing assistants in their first year and then become employees of Concord Hospital for the duration of the program, allowing them to earn as they learn.
- Students are placed in a clinical setting as soon as the summer of their first year.
- Students graduate in three years instead of four.
Our partnership with Concord Hospital and innovative program model have garnered the attention of other hospitals in New Hampshire, and even outside of New Hampshire, that would like to work with us. We believe this model can be replicated in any other hospital, but we first want to ensure that our initial program launch is as precise and efficient as possible.
A program that only attracts a small number of students each year is not feasible for NEC, and we are pleased that over 150 students have applied to our BSN program so far. We hope to enroll about 40 of them when classes begin this fall. We also look to hire one more full-time nursing professor and some adjunct faculty to round out this program.
Adding other clinical programs, such as physician’s assistant, would be a natural progression for the future, although we have not yet devised a plan for additional programs. We do know that a large number of NEC graduates go into the medical field, so the interest is there. Our BSN model provides a wonderful example of seamless collaboration between the academic realm and the professional realm. I think this model could establish a new paradigm for other academic disciplines going forward, and I am proud that NEC’s innovative spirit puts us at the forefront of that potential shift.
Our BSN model provides a wonderful example of seamless collaboration between the academic realm and the professional realm. I think this model could establish a new paradigm for other academic disciplines going forward, and I am proud that NEC’s innovative spirit puts us at the forefront of that potential shift.
1Ed Yong. “Why Health-Care Workers Are Quitting in Droves.” The Atlantic, November 16, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/11/the-mass-exodus-of-americas-health-care-workers/620713
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