Hunter Stenback

As a result of the changing landscape of health care, Miami University’s nursing program is getting a face lift.

According to associate nursing professor Jan Teets, the nursing program is phasing out the associate’s nursing degree program in favor of the bachelor’s degree and will admit the last associate’s nursing degree students next year.

“In terms of implementation, we are taking our last associate degree class this fall 2010, so they will graduate in 2012,” Teets said. “This is when we will be out of the associate nursing business and completely into the bachelor’s nursing business.”

Paulette Worcester, nursing department chair, said changes in health care have made the bachelor’s degree a much more valuable degree for nursing students.

“As health care reforms, what’s really going to be needed is someone who has a very broad background in not only nursing skills but in being able to relate to community and being able to assist a client wherever the client is,” Worcester said. “That’s going to mean being able to coordinate care across acute care settings, long-term care settings and community settings. The associate’s degree nurse just doesn’t have enough time in the short program to accomplish that. So the baccalaureate nurse is really the person who gets that very broad perspective and the opportunity to coordinate across all of those areas.”

According to Worcester, health care agencies in the area are also beginning to require baccalaureate nurses as a result of accreditation.

“We know that clinical agencies in our area are applying for a particular accreditation status, called Magnet accreditation status with the American Nurses Association, that requires more baccalaureate nurses at the bedside than associate’s or diploma nurses,” Worcester said. “They’re looking for these nurses because there is research that very much supports the baccalaureate nurse at the bedside in a hospital situation improves patient outcomes, decreases length of stay and decreases complications, so that’s an important outcome for hospitals.”

Along with the requirements of the changing profession, Miami has found competition among proprietary schools and community colleges offering associate nursing degrees.

“There have been quite a few proprietary schools that have opened associate degree nursing programs,” Worcester said. “Sinclair Community College is talking about bringing in their associate’s degree nursing program, so in looking ahead at our future we can deliver the baccalaureate program and they can’t. It made more sense for us to get into fully delivering the baccalaureate program and leaving the associate’s degree program to other institutions in our area who are doing it as we speak.”

Teets said the transition has been smooth, and Miami has worked with area hospitals to ensure that students from the nursing program will be able to meet their needs.

“We did work with some of our area hospitals through an advisory council to help make sure that they understood why we are making the change,” Teets said. “They, of course, are concerned that they have enough graduates to fill jobs. Because we are increasing the number of bachelor’s students each year as we have been decreasing our associate’s degree, we’ll still have about the same number of graduates. So we’ve been working with the community to make sure that they understand the reason for the change and that it won’t adversely affect them.”

According to Worcester, the changes have not resulted in a lack of interest in the nursing program.

“I would also say that we’ve had plenty of applications for the baccalaureate program, so we have not (seen) a decrease in applications in announcing this change,” Worcester said. “Students are still coming to Miami to get the nursing degree.”

First-year Jillian Kirby said she believes the changes will benefit Miami graduates.

“I think it’s a great thing that Miami is continuing to challenge students,” Kirby said. “My mom is a nurse, and at the end of the day, the changes in the nursing program are going to benefit the graduates.”