Fall in the Golden Crescent looks a lot like summer: skies are blue, trees leafy and green, the horizon hazy with lingering heat. But this fall something is different at the University of Houston-Victoria. Hard at work in the classrooms are the first students participating in the new RN to BSN program, a course of study made possible through visionary planning and the combined efforts of many members of our community.
Conceived in an Arts and Sciences committee meeting in December 2003, the RN to BSN program allows nurses who have completed their associate degree to advance their professional qualifications while continuing to live and work within the community. Classes are designed to incorporate cutting-edge research and medical practices while encouraging lifelong learning. The result is a bachelor’s degree that will open doors for area nurses and contribute to the quality of health care in the region.
An Innovative Program: One Day a Week, One Year to Complete
While developing the RN to BSN program, UHV listened to the needs of its future students: nurses already at work in the community. Knowing these students would be balancing their studies against the demanding schedules of hospitals and health care facilities, the university designed a program that would require students to be in the classroom only one day a week. All nursing courses would be taught on Tuesdays in Victoria and Thursdays in Sugar Land.
The second challenge was to design a program that could be completed within a single year, allowing nurses to put what they learn into practice as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, the RN to BSN program builds on background science courses nurses have already taken. Courses at UHV then focus on nursing research and integration of concepts in the complex care of individuals and families.
The yearlong course of study is designed to synthesize knowledge from the sciences, humanities and nursing so that graduates can provide appropriate, culturally sensitive care to individuals, families and communities. As a result, graduates of the program will have a broader understanding of the nursing profession and will be prepared to assume greater responsibilities, including some leadership roles, at the hospitals at which they work. They will also be prepared to pursue graduate-level studies.
Faculty at the Cutting Edge of Nursing
A top-notch program requires top-notch faculty. In September 2005, UHV welcomed Dr. Jeannette Hartshorn to the program as director of Nursing. With a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, Hartshorn has been active in both the classroom and clinical practice. She oversaw the development of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s highly successful telehealth program and was instrumental in promoting online learning at UTMB.
Since coming to UHV, Hartshorn has worked diligently to recruit four other faculty members whose research and experience also puts them at the cutting edge of nursing: Denise Neill, Christine Taylor, Dr. Shyang-Yun Pamela K. Shiao and Dr. Linda Dune.
Neill comes to UHV with 25 years’ experience in the field of nursing, more than 10 of which have been spent teaching. Her areas of interest include maternal-child and community health, and she is currently researching nursing workloads as part of her doctoral work.
Taylor is a certified family nurse practitioner and a certified registered nurse first assistant with over 15 years of clinical experience as a peri-operative nurse. She earned a master’s degree in nursing from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, where she was also recognized with an award for excellence in graduate research.
Shiao is the M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Endowed Professor of Nursing and, as such, she is the first endowed faculty member in the university’s history. She earned a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in 1994. Prior to accepting the position at UHV, Shiao was the director of nursing research at CHRISTUS St. Joseph Hospital in Houston. Her research focuses on neonatal critical care and psychological monitoring.
Dune earned a doctorate from Texas Woman’s University and has extensive clinical experience in the fields of critical care, emergency and medical-surgical nursing. She has designed several innovative programs incorporating technology into clinical education.
Support Spans Community
The RN to BSN program isn’t just a product of the university’s commitment, of course. Recognizing the benefits of a program that allows nurses to continue their studies without leaving the area, many local medical providers came together to support the program’s development. Hospitals collaborated to offer input and help with student recruitment. A community member even spoke alongside university officials to gain program approval from the Texas Board of Nursing Examiners.
No program can grow without financial backing, though, and in this key area the community also showed its support. The M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Foundation gave $250,000 to endow a professorship and Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers contributed $125,000 towards a building campaign. Area hospitals also gave generously, allowing UHV to competitively recruit faculty members while the program was still in development.
William R. Blanchard, chief executive officer of DeTar Healthcare System, said supporting the program just made sense. “There are so many nurses at DeTar, and in surrounding area hospitals, who are working toward a BSN degree. Providing this level of education locally will not only ensure that area hospitals continue to provide exceptional health care, but it will also give our nurses another reason to stay in the area.”
Noting that the RN to BSN program is indicative of UHV’s commitment to provide quality programs that respond to the needs of the region and shape Victoria’s future, UHV President Tim Hudson said, “Witnessing the excitement of the new nursing students and faculty is gratifying. The level of community support this program has received validates our efforts to create more educational opportunities for the region.”
Answering Tomorrow’s Nursing Needs Today
By now it’s a familiar story: As Americans live longer, our need for health care providers increases. Nursing industry studies tell us unless the number of nurses and other caregivers grows in proportion to the rising elderly population, access to quality health care could become compromised. Now is the time to act.
The nursing program at UHV will allow area caregivers to continue their education and further their training, increasing the incentive to stay in the area. But the top-notch faculty and innovative program design go a step further, creating a reason for nurses to come to the Golden Crescent. And if the outpouring of community support for the RN to BSN program says anything, it is that this is a region that supports nursing careers.