Jean Hershey, Program Chair, RN to BSN at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

3a1545aJean Hershey, Program Chair, RN to BSN Program at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, joins us today to discuss their accelerated RN to BSN program.

1. Can you tell us about the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (RN to BSN) offered at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences?

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences offers an accelerated, online RN to BSN program that allows registered nurses to return to school at a Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredited program.  Students join a cohort of nursing peers who attend online classes together as they gain enhanced knowledge of scientific advances, health care issues and nursing research. The curriculum, structured into 5-week modules, is designed to advance students’ critical thinking, communication skills, theoretical knowledge and professional development. Graduates are prepared to assume leadership roles within health care settings, provide exceptional patient care and pursue graduate nursing degrees.

2. How long does a typical online RN to BSN program take at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?

The program takes approximately 22 months to complete if students take one course at a time. Students have the option of progressing faster or slower through the curriculum as their schedule permits.

3. What do you think makes Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences program stand out from other online RN to BSN programs?

Online academic advisors work closely with students to support and guide students during online orientation and throughout the curriculum.

The online RN to BSN program offers an academically rigorous curriculum that matches our face-to-face curriculum. Our faculty are experts in their field who have completed advanced education in online teaching and learning through a nationally known online education consortium.

Our curriculum offers coursework in nursing theory, physical assessment, ethics, research, statistics and leadership.  In addition, we offer several unique courses that prepare the graduate for the evolving roles of baccalaureate prepared registered nurses including Teaching and Learning, the American Healthcare System, Economics, and Global Health.  Our curriculum has a strong focus on community health and wellness which closely aligns with the future of health care in the US. Graduates are well prepared to assume leadership roles in the evolving health care arena.

4. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an online RN to BSN program?

Nurses seeking to continue their education should only consider accredited programs.  Accreditation ensures the quality and integrity of nursing programs and collegiate institutions. Furthermore, it offers students the ability to receive federal and state grants and loans and helps enable graduates to obtain entry into master’s degree programs. Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences is fully accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), and the RN to BSN program is fully accredited through Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

5. There is some debate as to whether or not online BSN degrees are as worthwhile as traditional BSN degrees. What steps does Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they’d receive in a classroom?

Courses and program outcomes are identical in the online and face-to-face programs. Faculty who teach in the online program also teach in the face-to-face program. Each course has a lead faculty member who plans, develops and assesses the quality of courses in both programs. This assures that the all courses maintain the academic rigor and quality across the curriculum. To further guarantee the quality in education and learning of the online courses, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences requires all faculty who teach in the online environment to complete online teaching education through SLOAN-C, a nationally recognized education consortium.  All lead faculty members have completed a certificate program in online teaching.

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  6. What are the advantages to earning a RN to BSN degree in general?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) offered a blueprint for the future of Nursing. One of the four key messages addressed in their report states: “nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.” Registered nurses are challenged by this report to earn their BSN degree. In fact, the IOM, RWJF and other health care experts call for the nursing profession to increase the number of nurses with BSN degrees to 80% by the year 2020.

Nurses should not pursue a BSN degree purely because it is mandated. Instead it is my sincere hope that nurses recognize the value of the BSN degree. Nurses with advanced education are better prepared to handle the undeniable challenges facing our health care system as we face the increasing demands brought forth with the Affordable Care Act and our aging population.

7. Does Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences offer job placement for students who graduate from your RN to BSN program?

The majority of the students enrolled in the RN to BSN program are already employed when they enter the program. Those who are not employed typically find employment soon after enrolling. Students and graduates frequently report that they have received job offers as a direct result of working on or completing the RN to BSN degree.

8. What type of financial aid packages are available for students in nursing? Are there any fellowships, grants and scholarships available?

Federal and state grants, federal loans, and institutional scholarships based on student eligibility are available to the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences nursing students. The college also offers several payment plans and private loans.

9. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in an online RN to BSN program for the first time?

Online programs require motivation and self-direction. Our faculty offer a clear blueprint of assignments and expectations but it is up to the student to follow through and complete high quality work within the timelines and parameters outlined in the syllabi. It is also important to connect with your advisor, faculty members and classmates. Even though you are in an online class, it is important to participate in class discussions and online activities. If you need assistance with technology or course work, utilize the recourses made available to you. Finally if your computer skills are weak, take a basic computer course before you start or as an elective early in the curriculum.

10. What do you enjoy most about your position at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences?

My position as a Program Chair gives me the unique opportunity to teach and assume an administrative role within the college.  My greatest joy comes when I can share my knowledge and facilitate the learning of nurses who then change the lives of their patients and families. I am truly honored when I hear from our graduates about how the RN to BSN program has changed the way they see themselves and the nursing profession.  I am also blessed to work alongside an incredibly talented group of professional peers

For more information on the online RN to BSN program offered at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, visit them online at www.pacollege.edu

Thank you Jean Hershey, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!

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