New Online Program in West Virginia Will Expand Access to BSN Education

Dec 19, 2013, 1:00 PM

Efforts to increase the percentage of baccalaureate-educated nurses in West Virginia are getting a boost from a new online RN-to-BSN program at the University of Charleston (UC) in the state capital. The program, which will begin in the spring, will allow registered nurses (RNs) to complete requirements for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree in as little as 18 months.

The university’s president, Ed Welch, PhD, said in a news release that the program “answers an immediate need of West Virginia’s health care facilities. By completing their bachelor’s degree at UC in just 18 months, and continuing to work full time, nurses are able to advance their careers and better serve patients in the field.”

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program alumnus Duane Napier, MSN, RN-BC, formerly executive director of the West Virginia Center for Nursing, is the UC RN-BSN program coordinator. “We’ve had a great response since announcing the program,” Napier said in an interview. “It's the state's first online program that doesn't require any campus sessions, so it's truly designed for the working nurse.”

“But it’s not only nurses who are excited,” he added. “Hospitals that aspire to Magnet status are referring nurses to the program, and the hospitals are willing to subsidize tuition, because having more BSN nurses will help them achieve Magnet status, and they know it will improve outcomes for patients.”

Napier pointed out that health care leaders in West Virginia are striving to meet the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report recommendation that 80 percent of the nation’s nursing workforce have BSN degrees by 2020. Currently, he said, “only 31 percent of West Virginia nurses are educated at the baccalaureate level.” The program, however, is open to RNs from any state, Napier said, and the university has already had inquiries from Florida, Georgia, and Texas.

Learn more about the UC RN-BSN program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.