A traditional, four-year nursing program at Union College has been approved by its governing agency, making it the only program of its kind within 50 miles. Classes begin this fall.
“There is a desperate need for baccalaureate-prepared nurses in our area,” said Lorene Putnam, dean of Union’s Department of Nursing and Health Sciences. “Union is proud to help fill the void.”
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools issued an official letter to the college announcing approval of the pre-licensure Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing program. Students who are admitted this fall will begin the pre-nursing curriculum track, which has a liberal education foundation.
While not required, it is important to be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which is an independent accrediting arm of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Work is now in progress to win this approval in order to advance the options for BSN degree recipients.
The AACN’s first requirement of an accredited program is that it has a solid base in liberal education. This, according to an AACN evaluation document, “provides the cornerstone for the practice and education of nurses.”
“A nurse who has been through a strong liberal core and a solid nursing curriculum—and who also receives the personal attention Union is known for—will develop into an excellent, well-rounded and broadly educated professional,” Putnam said.
“It’s the liberal education foundation that separates a baccalaureate nursing degree from other types of degrees,” she said.
Union also offers an RN to BSN program, which began in the fall of 2010. This program is designed to help current registered nurses complete four-year degrees. It was while visiting healthcare professionals to promote that program that Putnam discovered an acute demand for a four-year nursing degree program in southeastern Kentucky.
“In visiting with lots of professionals in hospitals, nursing homes, health departments and other healthcare facilities, I was commonly asked if we had plans to start a traditional program,” Putnam said. “So after many meetings and lots of support from administrators and healthcare professionals in the community, we began the accreditation process.”
While transfer students will be accepted, most prospective nursing students this fall will be freshmen majoring in pre-nursing. Their first two years will be devoted to liberal studies requirements and pre-requisite courses.
In December of 2013— the half-way mark for traditional sophomores—candidates will be eligible to apply for the BS in nursing program. Admission will be competitive, and acceptance will be based on three criteria: college grade point average, composite ACT score and an exam.
There will be a maximum of 30 students admitted when the nursing core classes begin in the fall of 2014.
There are currently two full-time faculty members. Plans are to add two more in 2014 and others as demands increase.
The nursing school’s future home is the former Knox County Hospital building, which is currently being renovated. The projected is scheduled for completion in late spring, a full year before students will require access to clinical labs.