Regions Southwest Virginia

Program aims to provide more training for nurses

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Print this page by Vanessa Remmers
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Saundra Farmer is the director of the RN to BSN program at
Emory & Henry College. Photo by Earl Neikirk

Demand for nurses nationwide is on the rise, and the story is no different in Southwest Virginia.

An aging population needing greater access to health care has fueled calls for more highly trained nurses.

Emory & Henry College intends to help meet that need. The liberal-arts college has begun a program, called RN to BSN, in which registered nurses can return to school to earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Under the program, the college’s School of Health Sciences will provide nurses who have earned associate degrees or diplomas in nursing additional training through online and hybrid-format courses.

In 2010, the National Academy of Medicine set a goal of having 80% of nurses with bachelor’s degrees by 2020. Emory & Henry felt “it was only natural that we would offer this kind of program,” says Saundra Farmer, the program’s director.

The average age of nurses in the U.S. is about 50, according to the National Institute of Medicine and the American Nurses Association.

Training a younger generation of nurses in critical thinking and decision-making skills “is becoming more and more important,” Farmer says.

She adds that studies have shown that hospitals with more highly educated nurses have fewer safety issues. “They are able to tackle problems with patients such as preventing infections,” Farmer says.

In Southwest Virginia, many people with chronic ailments are treated outside of a hospital setting.

Lou Fincher, vice president at the School of Health Sciences, says programs such as RN to BSN are being created as the nation grapples with a “perfect storm” of factors contributing to a shortage of health-care providers.

“Many in Southwest Virginia have to look to Tennessee [for health-care services] so this program may eventually give people an opportunity to stay in Southwest Virginia, ” Fincher says.

Tuition for the program will be $330 per credit hour.

Farmer expects the program to receive its accreditation this summer with its first cohort of 25 to 30 students enrolling this fall.

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