It takes money to bring great ideas to life, and a $300,000 Academic Progression in Nursing grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is enabling the New Mexico Nursing Education Consortium to begin implementing a coordinated nursing education infrastructure, aimed at increasing bachelor’s-prepared nurses and diversity in the state’s nursing workforce.
“We’re doing a university and community college partnership, in which we are offering baccalaureate-degree tracks as an option within participating community colleges,” said Jean Giddens, RN, PhD, FAAN, professor and executive dean of the college of nursing at the University of New Mexico, a consortium leadership council member and principal investigator for the RWJF grant.
The New Mexico coalition aims to address two goals of the Institute of Medicine’s report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” — increase baccalaureate-prepared nurses and diversity in the RN workforce. The RWJF invited every state action coalition, which are working to implement the recommendations of the IOM report, to submit a grant proposal for one of the nine APIN awards. The other states selected include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.
“New Mexico had one of the strongest proposals, which referenced its ongoing work with NMNEC,” said Sue Hassmiller, RN, PhD, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing at RWJF. “One of the criteria for a grant award was having a stable action coalition that was already working on academic progression and had a solid plan.”
New Mexico’s nursing programs began working on a common curriculum in 2010, with support from the New Mexico Board of Nursing, with the BSN program requiring additional coursework.
“We were trying to make the path to BSN the most efficient we could within this state,” said Pat McIntire, RN, FNP, GNP-C, MS, chairwoman of the school of nursing at Western New Mexico University in Silver City. “That’s how we came up with the concept of community colleges pairing with a university to offer bachelor’s education to nursing students in their own communities.”
Participating community colleges will offer either an associates degree or, in collaboration with the university, a BSN. The curriculum is nursing-concept based, teaching essentials such as gas exchange and perfusion, providing examples and simulations, across the lifespan.
“People are better problem solvers if they have been taught conceptually rather than specifics,” McIntire said. “The students see more complex patients and more acutely-ill patients as they progress through the curriculum.”
Giddens credited tremendous collaboration among the state-funded schools with making the common curriculum and dual track possible.
“It’s amazing how far we have come,” Giddens said. “Community colleges are part of the long-term solution for the nursing workforce. This project wouldn’t work if we didn’t have the community colleges and universities working together.”
All of the state-funded schools have participated in the curriculum development. Several schools are planning to start the new curriculum in January 2014, and at least two community colleges are expecting to offer the BSN track with a university at that time.
“We will probably find out a lot by starting with a few schools,” Giddens said. “We’re going to learn what works and doesn’t work, and adjust accordingly.”
Employers have participated in the action coalition and provided feedback on the collaborative education program. The community colleges have the option to offer the baccalaureate track as employer demand supports it.
“There is variability in perceived need for baccalaureate-prepared nurses among employers throughout the state,” Giddens said. “The infrastructure exists to allow the community colleges in the future to be responsive to the needs of employers in a timely way.”
The two-year grant will help the consortium cover meeting expenses and personnel to collect and analyze data, which it will follow for the next 10 years. NMNEC will begin by measuring admissions and qualified applicants, preadmission advising, progression and graduations.
The consortium is developing advisement materials and a website to explain options to prospective students. The outreach will include high school counselors and community college advisers.
“This increases accessibility to the baccalaureate degree,” Giddens said. “The NMNEC model has the potential to change the face of nursing education, not only in New Mexico but [also] throughout the nation.